A Special Guardianship Order is a Court Order which appoints an individual or couple to be a child’s long-term carer. It is used where a child cannot live with their parents and therefore need to be cared for by someone else.
Special Guardianship Orders are designed to offer a child stability and permanence. When a Court makes a Special Guardianship Order, it will remain in force until the child turns 18 years old.
A Special Guardianship Order can be discharged, however, this is a very high test and the Court’s permission must first be sought before any application is made. This is to prevent the child experiencing uncertainty and a change in carers, so as to ensure that instead, the child can settle with their Special Guardians knowing they will likely spend the rest of their childhood living with them.
A Special Guardianship Order may be made within care proceedings. Alternatively, a stand alone application may be made to the Court. Before making any application, a prospective Special Guardian must notify the Local Authority of their intention. The Local Authority will then carry out an assessment and advise the Court as to the suitability of the prospective Special Guardian(s).
The child’s parents can contest the application if they wish. If the application is contested, you will need to attend a Court hearing to have the Order granted.
If you need to apply for a Special Guardianship Order or are looking for legal advice on acting as a Special Guardian, our friendly, expert Family Law team can help.
We can guide you through the application process, helping you to apply for a Special Guardianship Order as quickly and smoothly as possible. Where necessary, we can represent you in Court proceedings, helping to make sure your case is prepared and presented effectively so you have the best chance of a positive outcome.
Once a Special Guardianship Order has been secured, we can help to make sure you are clear about your legal responsibility and that you are able to access all of the financial and practical support you need for this challenging role.
To arrange an initial consultation on a Special Guardianship Order with our family lawyers, please contact our new client co-ordinators today.
Who can apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
You can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if:
- You are a relative of the child and the child has lived with you for at least a year
- The child has lived with you for at least 3 of the past 5 years
- You have a Residence Order or Child Arrangement Order for the child
- You have been appointed a Guardian for the child under someone’s Will
- You have the Local Authority’s consent, and the child is in the care of the Local Authority
- You are a Local Authority foster carer who has cared for the child for at least a year immediately before the application is made
- You have the permission of the Court to make the application
Who cannot apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
The child’s parents cannot apply for a Special Guardianship Order.
How to apply for a Special Guardianship Order
- Before making an application, you must give 3 months’ written notice to the relevant Local Authority of your intention
- If you need the Court’s permission to make an application, you must apply for this first
- You must then complete and submit the relevant court form(s) and pay the appropriate fee to fee to the Court
What happens when the application for a Special Guardianship Order is made?
- The Court will list the application for a hearing
- The Court will direct that the Local Authority prepares a report for the Court
- The Court will then list a further hearing to consider how to deal with the case
- If the case is not agreed the Court will list it for a contested hearing to decide if the order should be made
What will the report from the Local Authority say?
The Local Authority will consider:
- Whether the child has any siblings
- The relationship the child has with his/her siblings
- What arrangements there are for the child to have contact with family members
- Details of the child’s relationship with his/her parents
- The parents’ and the child’s wishes and feelings
- The family circumstances of the people who are applying for a Special Guardianship Order
- How capable the Special Guardians are of caring for the child
- Any medical information about the parents, child and the people who are applying for a Special Guardianship Order
- An assessment of whether a Special Guardianship Order will meet the child’s long-term needs
What is the effect of a Special Guardianship Order?
- If there were previously any orders relating to the child they will be discharged when the Special Guardianship Order is made
- The making of a Special Guardianship Order gives the Special Guardians Parental Responsibility for the child. A Special Guardianship Order does not remove a parent’s Parental Responsibility. However the Special Guardian can exercise their Parental Responsibility to the exclusion of the parents.
- The Special Guardians have responsibility for the day to day decisions relating to the child’s care and upbringing
- A Special Guardian can take the child abroad for up to 3 months without the consent of others with Parental Responsibility
- If the Special Guardians want to take the child abroad for longer than 3 months, they would need either the consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility or the permission of the Family Court
- A Special Guardian should get consent from everyone with Parental Responsibility for the child for major medical treatment (except in an emergency)
- A Special Guardian cannot change the child’s name without the consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility or permission from the Family Court
- A Special Guardian must tell everyone with Parental Responsibility if the child dies
Support Services for Special Guardians
The Local Authority must make arrangements to provide support to Special Guardians which may include:
- Financial support (means tested)
- Assistance with arrangements for contact
- Respite care
- Counselling, advice and information
- Therapeutic help for the children