legal aidSpecial Guardianship Orders

Special Guardianship Orders were brought in for family situations where a child cannot live with their birth parents and is being looked after by other family members (usually grandparents, although not exclusively).

The aim of a Special Guardianship Order is to provide a non-parent with a greater degree of permanence than a Child Arrangements Order, but a lesser Order than an Adoption Order. It still maintains a legal link between the child and the birth parents.

Only a Court can appoint a Special Guardian. However the Court can only do so once it has received a comprehensive report from the Local Authority, which requires three months' notice of the intention to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order.

The main features of a Special Guardianship Order are:-

  • It gives the Special Guardian parental responsibility for the child and, subject to any other Order, they are entitled to exercise that parental responsibility to the exclusion of anyone with parental responsibility (i.e. the child's mother or father);
  • It gives the Special Guardian clear responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child concerned and, for making the decisions concerning the child's upbringing;
  • Provides a firm foundation on which to build a lifelong permanent relationship;
  • Preserves the legal link between the child and their natural parents;
  • Allows proper access to a range of support services including, in some circumstances, financial support;

There are limits on the exercise of parental responsibility without permission of the Court:

  • The child's name cannot be changed;
  • The child cannot be removed from the UK for a period of more than three months without the consent of others with parental responsibility or permission of the Court.

Once made the Special Guardian is able to make day to day decisions about the child's upbringing. Unless brought to an end by the Court, the Special Guardianship order will last until the child reaches 18 years of age. A Special Guardianship Order can be varied or discharged by application to the Court.

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