Sometimes it may be necessary for a child to live with someone other than their parents. On these occasions, the court issues a Special Guardianship Order when the situation arises.
It is crucial that you get expert legal assistance from family law specialists, who are skilled in this field and can competently represent you, with the best interests of the child in mind during this emotionally taxing and difficult process.
Ok, so what is a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order will be issued by the family court to make arrangements for a kid to live with someone other than their parents if the court determines that doing so is in the child’s best interests.
The person listed in the order will take on the role of Special Guardian for the child and be in charge of caring for them, making daily choices, and attending to their needs.
Parental responsibility will be given to the Special Guardian, but crucially, it will not be taken away from the child’s parents. The SGO, which supersedes regular parental responsibility provides the Special Guardian with complete decision-making authority for the child, is an advanced parental authority.
Who Can Apply to be a Special Guardian?
You may apply for a Special Guardianship Order if you are over 18 and:
- You are related to the child in question, and they have either lived with you for at least a year prior to the submission, or the court has given you permission to apply for the order.
- Prior to the application, the child had been in your foster care for at least a year.
- For at least three of the past five years, the child has resided with you.
- If the child is under the local authority’s care, you have their consent.
- The court has given its approval for you.
There is no requirement that people requesting for special guardianship are married, meaning joint applications are equally acceptable.
How Can I Apply to Be a Special Guardian?
Three months prior to submission, applicants for Special Guardianship Orders must notify the local government of their intent. Then they must file a petition with the family court.
The Children’s Services department will then get in touch with you to determine your suitability and will write a report describing their recommendations for the court.
Is There Any Support Available for a Special Guardian?
When a SGO is granted for a child who is already in local authority custody, an automated assessment is made to see if additional financial or practical help is needed. Even if the child is not being looked after, the special guardians or the children themselves may still ask for a support assessment for:
- Financial support
- Psychological counselling and support
- Access to support groups and respite care
- Training and/or advice to help the special guardian meet the needs of the child
While financial support eligibility is based on a means test, everyone can get financial aid to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Facilitating contact visits with the child’s family, or to pay for childcare so the special guardian may take a break are a couple examples of these costs.
The needs of both the special guardian and the child will be taken into account when deciding who has access to various forms of assistance.
When can a SGO be removed?
A Special Guardianship Order can be amended in one of two ways, even though it typically lasts until a child is 18 years old, if there has been a substantial change in the circumstances:
The order may be modified in certain respects or abolished entirely; in which case the child would be restored to their parents.
Any person seeking to terminate a Special Guardianship Order must file an application with the court, which will then review the information to determine if the situation has changed sufficiently to warrant changing the original order.
The child’s expected reaction to the court’s ruling and how upsetting it would be for the child to move again, will both be taken into account.
Are There Alternatives to Special Guardianship Orders?
There are a number of alternatives to a SGO in cases when a child is thought to be in danger if they stay with their parents:
A foster carer, unlike a Special Guardian, lacks parental responsibility over a child and is therefore unable to make key choices regarding the care and upbringing of the child.
Foster care may not always give a child the sense of stability and belonging that a Special Guardianship Order can provide, even if the placement is long-term.
Order for Child Arrangement
The court issues a Child Arrangement Order outlining the child’s residence in the interests of their safety and welfare. Along with the child’s parents, the person whose care they are entrusted with will also be responsible for raising the child.
Through adoption, a child is permanently separated from their biological parents and placed with a new family.
Once the court order is in place, the birth parents no longer have any parental rights, and in most situations, they also no longer have any connection to the child’s extended biological family.
We Care, Understand and Have the Expertise
As family law experts with families of our own, we understand the complicated dynamics that might exist within many houses, recognising that no two families are the same.
The one thing we all have in common, though, is how dearly we cherish the people in our lives, especially our children, for whom we have nothing but the highest intentions.
Because of this, our knowledgeable Child Custody & Law Solicitors are available to provide you with the necessary legal guidance and support, whether you’re looking to apply for a Special Guardianship Order or want one withdrawn.