A special guardianship order is a type of court order made by the family court. Its purpose is to appoint someone (or several people) as a Special Guardian of a child. The child would live with this person (or people) on a long-term basis.
Special Guardian’s are usually (but not always) relatives of the child.
Unlike a residence order, a parent is unable to apply to discharge (remove) a special guardianship order, unless the court has given them permission to do so.
A special guardianship order does not put an end to the legal relationship between the child in question and their birth parent/s. An adoption order, on the other hand, severs the legal ties between the child and their birth parents (the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents).
Yes, the Special Guardian for a child (named in the special guardianship order) has parental responsibility for the child.
A special guardianship order enables the Special Guardian to exercise their parental responsibility to the exclusion of anyone else with parental responsibility (except for another Special Guardian, if there is one).
The Special Guardian/s can make everyday decisions about how the child is cared for and brought up.
A Special Guardian can leave the UK with the child in question for a maximum of 3 months without needing to obtain the permission from other people with parental responsibility (or the court).
Those wanting to apply for a special guardianship order must be over 18 years old. It is possible to apply for a special guardianship order as either an individual or with another person (jointly).
Parents of the child in question cannot apply for a special guardianship order.
You may be able to apply for a special guardianship order if either:
• the court has granted you permission to apply for a special guardianship order
• the child in question has resided with you for 3 out of the last 5 years
• you are the child’s Local Authority foster carer and the child has lived with you for 1 year just before you apply for the special guardianship order
• you are the child’s guardian or already have a residence order or a child arrangements order
• you are the child’s relative and they have been living with you for a minimum of a year
• you have the Local Authority’s permission to apply for a special guardianship order (and the child is in the Local Authority’s care)
If you want to apply for a special guardianship order, you will have to inform the children’s services department of the relevant Local Authority.
Usually, you will be required to attend what is known as a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM). The purpose of this is to determine whether your case could be resolved through mediation before an application for a special guardianship order is made.
While it is possible to apply for a special guardianship order without a solicitor, we would always recommend that anyone considering applying for a special guardianship order seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in this area of law, such as Austin Kemp.
Yes, it is necessary to go through an assessment process before applying to the court for a special guardianship order.
The relevant Local Authority has to write a report for the family court which will detail whether or not they think the possible Special Guardian would be appropriate. The main purpose of the assessment process is to ensure that a special guardianship order would be in the child’s best interests.
Special Guardianship Allowance may be able to be applied for, but it is not available for everyone, as it is means tested.Your Local Authority should be able to give you advice about what support is available (financial and otherwise) and how to access it.
A special guardianship order may not be suitable for everyone. Other options include adoption, a child arrangements order or long-term fostering.
As we touched on above, the main difference between adoption and a special guardianship order is that the birth parents of the child will lose parental responsibility after adoption.
Conversely, a long-term foster carer of a child will not have parental responsibility (and therefore would not be able to make decisions regarding the upbringing and care of the child in the same way as those with parental responsibility can).
A child arrangements order can grant parental reason-ability to the person with whom the child will live (as detailed on the order).
As you can see, there are various alternatives to the special guardianship order available, which is why it is vital to get legal advice to make sure you are applying for the right order for you and the child.
Applying for a special guardianship order is not a process which should be undertaken lightly. It’s highly recommend that you seek legal advice to ensure that a special guardianship order would be right for both you and the child in question.
As every case is different, it’s always best to get legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to special guardianship orders, including:
For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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