Under the Children Act 1989, the family courts can grant a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) to couples or an individual, which confers on them shared Parental Responsibility with the child’s birth parents.
Special Guardianship Orders are often used if a child is not able to live with their birth parents – perhaps because of illness or family breakdown – but the courts consider that it would be in the child’s best interest to appoint a Special Guardian(s) to ensure the child has a secure upbringing.
An SGO is different from adoption because legally the relationship between a child and their birth parents is ongoing – in adoption, the legal relationship between a child and their birth parents ends once the child is adopted.
Close relatives of a child can apply to be their Special Guardian – and this might involve grandparents, an uncle or aunt, or a godparent or a close family friend applying to the court for a Special Guardianship Order.
There are legal requirements which must be met before an individual or couple can apply for an SGO, including:
If parents or those with Parental Responsibility give their permission, then an SGO can also be applied for – however, the law does not allow a parent (for example, a non-resident parent) to become a child’s Special Guardian.
The local authority will issue a report on the suitability of the applicant for an SGO for the family court to consider.
Family courts always give the welfare of a child priority in any decision regarding childcare, including SGOs.
Under the Children Act 1989, a Child Welfare Checklist will also inform the court’s decision – and the court will consider the child’s wishes, taking into account their age and understanding of what is happening.
The Child Welfare Checklist will also take into account the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs – and whether the applicant for Special Guardianship can meet those needs.
The court will also consider any abuse the child has suffered – as well as how any change in circumstances might affect the child.
Applying for a Special Guardianship Order can require expert legal help to prepare the application – and make sure that a local authority and family court have all the relevant details needed to assess an application to become a child’s Special Guardian.
Parents and individuals applying for an SGO must also consider whether being a child’s Special Guardian would suit their own needs – particularly if there is no family relationship with the child, whose birth parents would still share Parental Responsibility with the Special Guardian.
SGOs last until the child is 18 – and Duncan Lewis adoption lawyers can advise couples and individuals who are considering applying for a Special Guardianship Order on preparing the application, as well as advising on their legal obligations as a Special Guardian
Duncan Lewis is ranked by the Legal 500 2014 for its Family & Matrimonial work – and the Duncan Lewis team includes Advanced Members of the Law Society’s Family Panel, and members of the Law Society Children Panel – so our team is well placed to help you with applying for a Special Guardianship Order.
Duncan Lewis children lawyers offer a fixed fee for an initial client interview and assessment of a case involving a Special Guardianship Order.
After a case has been assessed, it is usually possible for a fixed fee arrangement to be put in place – and Duncan Lewis will always advise clients of the costs in advance.
For expert legal advice on all child care matters – including Special Guardianship Orders – contact Duncan Lewis Children Lawyers on 020 7923 4020.