What is a special guardianship order?
A Special Guardianship order is one that members of a child’s family may consider where the child or children are being cared for permanently by family members other than their parents. This could apply for example to grandparents, aunts or uncles.
For a number of years the Court has been able to assist parents and grandparents where issues arise in relation to arrangements for their children. A Child Arrangement Order may be made in respect to the arrangements for children upon the breakdown in a relationship relating to with which parent the children will live and how much time the children will spend with the other parent. The Court also has the power to help parents resolve issues relating to schooling, or whether or not one parent may take the children to live abroad (known as Specific issue and Prohibited Steps Orders).
A Special Guardianship Order falls somewhere between a Child Arrangement order and an Adoption order. It provides a long-term care option similar to Adoption but allows the child or children to retain a legal relationship with the birth family that an adoption order would sever.
Who is a Special Guardianship order suitable for?
It may be appropriate where it is important for the child or children to retain a relationship with other family members such as parents, brothers or sisters, but is to be brought up by a relative other than the parent.
An Adoption Order would alter the child’s relationship with the rest of his or her family whereas a Special Guardianship Order would retain the link but would settle the arrangements for the child or children for their minority.
The order will give its holder the right to exercise exclusively parental responsibility (make parental decisions on behalf of the child). It does not extinguish the parent’s parental responsibility but suspends it for the duration of the Order.
How do you apply for an Order?
The first step is to check whether you may make such an application or whether you require the permission of the court (known as leave). Once this has been established or obtained you are required to give your Local Authority (Social Services Department) three months notice of your intention to make an application to a Court.
They will then allocate a Social Worker who will investigate all the circumstances of your case and prepare an extensive report to the Court about what would be in the child’s best interests. There will then be a hearing or possibly a number of hearings at Court where a decision will be made by a Judge.
Why get a special guardianship order?
There are benefits to a Special Guardianship Order over and above those provided by a Residence order. A Special Guardianship order may provide access to support and help in the child’s placement such as access to counselling services and financial help with certain expenses if is considered appropriate. This provision is however dependent upon the local authority in questions arrangements and the carers circumstances. If the child has special needs they can offer assistance to help with arrangements such as respite care.
This is a new and complex area of law that Woolley & Co can help you with.
Need further advice?
Call Woolley & Co on 0800 3213832 or book a free initial telephone appointment with one of our lawyers.