Special Guardianship Orders
What is a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order appoints one or more individuals to be a child’s ‘special guardian’.
This 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.
Special Guardianship Orders offer more security than Residence Orders, because a parent cannot apply to discharge it, unless they have the permission of the courts.
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.
Biological parents remain financially responsible in law for their child even when a Special Guardianship Order has been issued, so they will be under an obligation to pay maintenance for the child’s upbringing.
Ashmans Solicitors Family Law Team advise those people who are seeking help with all child care matters – including Special Guardianship Orders. Please lose no time in getting in touch with us.
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What Does a Special Guardianship Order Grant?
The order confers Parental Responsibility, which means that the special guardian has responsibility for day-to-day decisions relating to a child’s care and upbringing – this ends when the child reaches the age of 18.
A special guardian can remove a child from the UK for up to three months without the consent of any others with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.
On making a Special Guardianship Order, the court may give leave for the child to be known by a new surname (in certain circumstances).
As well as making general day-to-day decisions, it is the responsibility of the Special Guardian to make important decisions concerning the long-term care and upbringing of the child, such as deciding which school the child is to attend.
Parental Disputes Over Special Guardianship
If a parent does not agree with any decision a Special Guardian has made, all parties should try to come to an amicable decision. Mediation would be the next step if a decision cannot be reached easily.
If mediation is unsuccessful, then the last option would be to apply either for a Specific Issue Order, asking the court to determine the issue in question, or a Prohibited Steps Order, asking the court to issue an Order preventing the Special Guardian from doing something.
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 with another person.
The following types of people may apply to be Special Guardians:
- Any guardian of the child.
- If you already have a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence Order.
- 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, before the application.
- A relative of the child with whom the child has resided for at least one year immediately pre-dating an application for a Special Guardianship Order.
- Anyone who has the consent of those with Parental Responsibility.
- Anyone who has permission of the Court to make the application.
What is a Special Guardianship Assessment?
If you wish to apply for a Special Guardianship Order, you will be required to inform Children’s Services in writing of your intention, three months before submitting an application to the court.
Children’s Services will then prepare a report for the court, setting out whether they believe that you will be a suitable Special Guardian.
A Special Guardian can appoint a Testamentary Guardian (i.e. name a person in their will who they want to care for the child when they die). The Testamentary Guardian would obtain Parental Responsibility should the Special Guardian die. The Testamentary Guardian may still need to seek a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship order if a dispute arises as to where the child should live.
At Ashmans Solicitors, we have an expert team of in-house family law specialists, each with many years of experience representing clients in family courts. Please ring us to arrange an appointment with one of our specialist lawyers. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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