What is a Special Guardianship Order?

Sometimes, a young person may need to live apart from their parents. It may be that a local authority has broached the idea of a Special Guardship Order with you, or a private arrangement has been discussed between parents and carers.

A Special Guardian is usually someone with a close relationship to the child, such as a family member, former foster carer or family friend.

Special Guardianship is a formal court order which places a child/children or young person with someone permanently and gives that person parental responsibility for the child (see our parental responsibility blog for more information https://www.alfrednewton.com/parental-responsibility/).

Special Guardianship means that the child/children lives with carers who will obtain parental responsibility for them until they are grown up. If the child was looked after (subject to a Care Order) before the Special Guardianship Order was granted, the making of the order will mean the local authority no longer have parental responsibility.

The order usually lasts until the child is 18 years old.

Positive effects of a Special Guardianship Order

A Special Guardianship Order has the following effects:

  • It gives a child the security of a long-term placement
  • The child’s birth parents retain shared parental responsibility
  • It gives the Special Guardian day-to-day control (jointly, if there are several Special Guardians)
  • Unlike adoption, a Special Guardianship Order will not remove parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents. This means that the Special Guardian will have responsibility for the day-to-day decisions as well as all the important decisions about the child or young person, but will need to consult the birth parents at times where key decisions are being made such as changing their name, moving overseas or agreeing adoption.

Restrictions with a Special Guardianship Order

  • If an order is made, Special Guardians must not change a child’s name and they must not take them outside of the UK for more than three months.

Contact between a child/children and parents

Special Guardians will have a duty under a Special Guardianship Order to promote contact between the child/children in their care and their parents.

Parents application to discharge a Special Guardianship Order

If the Special Guardianship Order is granted, it will be possible for the child/children’s parents to apply to the court to discharge the order. For a successful application, the parents would have to demonstrate a significant amount of change and the court must be satisfied that they will not revert back to a level of care which places their child/children at risk of harm. The child’s welfare would be the court’s paramount consideration.

There has recently been a change to legal aid which enables people who wish to apply for a Special Guardianship Order to apply for legal aid if eligible.

For more information regarding Special Guardianship Orders, please speak to our experienced family team on 0161 480 6551.

Helen Bates, Solicitor

Helen Bates