Special Guardianship Orders

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

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.

Can’t I just apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

It is a more secure order than a Child Arrangements 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.

Who can apply for Special Guardianship Orders?

You must be over 18 years of age and you cannot be the parent of the child. 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.
  • If you have been granted a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence Order for the child.
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived with 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 with for at least one year preceding the application.
  • If 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 who hold parental responsibility for the child.
  • 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 child arrangements order (to spend time with) 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 a period of up to three months, without requiring the 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.

The role of the local authority

Each local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services which may include:

  • Financial assistance (means tested).
  • Assistance with the arrangements for contact between a child, his/her parents and any relatives that the local authority consider to be beneficial.
  • This assistance can include financial assistance to help with the cost of travel, entertainment, and mediation to help resolve difficulties on contact.
  • Respite care.
  • Counselling, advice, information and other support services.
  • Services to enable children, parents and special guardians to discuss matters, this might include setting up a support group.
  • Therapeutic services for the child.

If you would like any advice regarding Special Guardianship Orders or any other matter concerning children please contact Julie Keogh on 01258 483605 or by email julie.keogh@blanchardsbailey.co.uk 

Blanchards Bailey

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