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Sometimes, for whatever reason, a child may not be able to live with their birth parents. A Special Guardianship Order is a private law designed to provide a secure long-term home for the child.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A Special Guardianship Order is where one or more people are appointed as a child’s legal guardian responsible for their direct upbringing. The special guardian is able to make upbringing decisions for the child such as religion, medical treatment and education. All special guardians must be over 18 years of age and must not be the birth parent.

Who can be a special guardian?

According to the Children Act 1989, the following people can apply to be a special guardian:

  • Existing guardians of the child
  • Anyone with permission from the courts
  • If the child has lived with them for three years out of the previous five years
  • Anyone who has consent from the local authority
  • Anyone who has  Child Arrangements Order
  • Anyone who has a Residence Order
  • Anyone related to the child and the child has lived with them for a minimum of one year
  • Anyone with consent from the birth parents

How about the birth parents?

Birth parents will still hold a legal link to the child but the special guardian will have an overriding Parental Responsibility in relation to most decisions which need to be made in relation to the child . The birth parents cannot apply to discharge the Special Guardianship Order unless they have permission from the court.

Are there any legal restrictions as a special guardian?

Even though you have more parental responsibility than the birth parents, there are still a few legal restrictions that come with a Special Guardianship Order. You can’t:

  • Consent for the child to be adopted
  • Change the child’s name without the parent’s consent or court’s permission
  • Take them out of the country for longer than 3 months at a time without the parent’s consent or court’s permission

How can 174 Law help?

We can offer extensive advice and support when it comes to Special Guardianship Orders. If you’re considering becoming a special guardian then the local authority needs to be notified. We will talk you through each step of the process and help you provide all necessary information so your application is as strong as possible.

The local authority will create a report based on the following:

  • Notes about the child’s relationship with their birth parents
  • Whether the child has any siblings
  • Potential arrangements for the child to stay in touch with other family members
  • How the Special Guardianship Order would meet a child’s needs and interests
  • The birth parent’s feelings and wishes
  • The child’s feelings and wishes
  • Parenting capacity of the special guardian
  • Details on contact between the birth parents and the child
  • Financial and other support that should be made available to the proposed

Special Guardian

You may also be entitled to means-tested financial assistance, as well as counselling and support groups. We can help with all kinds of aspects involved with becoming a special guardian such as assistance with forms, advice on your next steps and much more.

Are you considering special guardianship? Contact our family law team on 0151 647 7372 or email family@174law.co.uk