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Special Guardianship Orders

Expert Family solicitors for special guardianship orders

A special guardianship order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child’s ‘special guardian’. It is a private law order made under the Children Act 1989 and is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement.

It is a more secure order than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court to do so, however it is less secure than an adoption order because it does not end the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth parents. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced Special Guardianship and Special Guardianship Orders.

If you’re already caring for the child, the Berris Law family solicitors can provide you with the specialist advice needed to navigate the often complex process required when dealing with special guardianship orders.

Who can apply for Special guardianship orders?

You must be over 18 years of age and you cannot be the parent of the child in question. You can make an application on your own or jointly with another person. The following people may apply to be special guardians:

  • Any guardian of the child.
  • You have a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence Order for the child.
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years out of the last five years.
  • Anyone with the consent of the local authority if the child is in care.
  • A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application.
  • You are a relative of the child and the child has resided with you for at least one year immediately pre-dating an application for a Special Guardianship Order
  • Anyone who has the consent of those with the parental responsibility.
  • Anyone who has permission of the Court to make the application.
Who cannot apply?

A parent of a child may not be appointed as the child’s special guardian. The court must decide that a special guardianship order is the most appropriate order to make in the best interests of the child. The court must consider whether, in addition to the making of a special guardianship order, a contact order should be made and whether any existing Section 8 Orders should be varied or discharged. The court must have the benefit of the local authority report dealing with the suitability of the applicant and any other matters that the local authority consider relevant before it can make an order (Children Act 1989, section 14A(8), (9).

What is the effect of a special guardianship order?

This order discharges any existing care order or related section 34 Contact Order. It confers parental responsibility, which can be exercised to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility apart from another special guardian. The special guardian has responsibility for day to day decisions relating to a child’s care and upbringing. This order allows a special guardian to remove a child from the UK for up to three months without consent of others with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.

The court can give permission for the child to be taken out of the jurisdiction for longer than three months. On making a special guardianship order the court may give leave for the child to be known by a new surname.

In addition, it gives the child security and a long term placement. It may also help to give the young person links to their birth parents too if deemed appropriate.

Why choose Berris Law Special Guardianship solicitors?

There are many considerations to take into account when dealing with Special Guardianship Orders. Aside from the practicalities of the person seeking to become Special Guardian meeting the requirements of being over the age of 18 (this could include an existing guardian, foster carer or someone who has lived with the child) there are also numerous practical and financial implications to consider.

The process of obtaining Special Guardianship Orders can also be fraught with legal complexities, meaning it’s wise to consult with an experienced family solicitor with a track record in this field before you begin proceedings. You must give three month’s written notice to the local authority of your intention to apply for a Special Guardianship Order and we recommend that you consult with our team before filing that application.

After the court receives the SGO application, your suitability as a guardian will be assessed. This typically requires the local authority to prepare a report and support plan. Taking on the parental responsibility for a child who isn’t your own can be stressful and confusing however we are here to help you through that process.

We at Berris Law have many years of experience in this field and in particular, Julian Hayes an expert Child Panel solicitor who has obtained many positive outcomes for parents. Please call on 020 3325 7415 for a free consultation.


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