Under federal law, if you are successful or partially successful in a due process hearing, or a court hearing, a federal court may award you reasonable attorneys’ fees. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1415(i)(3)(A) & (B).] Attorneys’ fees are not available when you have an attorney represent you at an IEP meeting, except where the IEP meeting was convened at the order of an ALJ or judge. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1415(i)(3)(D)(ii).]
Fees are not automatically available if you are successful in a mediation conference, but your attorney may negotiate fees as part of the mediation agreement.
The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the costs of expert witnesses are not recoverable if you prevail in special education due process hearings. [ArlingtonCent. DistrictBoard v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 (2006).]
The district may ask you to waive your right to attorneys’ fees as part of a settlement agreement (whether or not this is done through OAH mediation). You should thoroughly discuss this with your attorney before you enter into any discussions with the district.
Your fees may be reduced if the court finds that you did not do better as a result of the due process hearing than what the district offered in writing at least 10 days before the hearing. Attorneys’ fees may also be reduced if the court finds that you unreasonably delayed final resolution of the dispute or if you did not provide the required written notice to the district of certain information at the time of filing for a due process hearing. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1415(i)(3)(D) – (G).]