What are Special Guardianship Orders?

Special Guardianship Orders were introduced in 2005 under the Children Act 1989 to bridge the gap between adoption and an Order for who the child should live with.

Why choose a Special Guardianship Order?

Special Guardianship Orders are suitable when a child has been living with you for a period of at least one year, or if they have been placed in your care during the course of care proceedings, and remain in place until the child has attained the age of 18. Such an Order affords the Special Guardian parental responsibility, but does not strip those who also have parental responsibility of it. The Special Guardian is therefore able to make almost all decisions without the need of the parents’ consent or approval. Conversely, whilst a Child Arrangements Order may determine who the child lives with, it does not afford the guardian parental responsibility and, therefore, no decisions can be made by the guardian without the parents’ consent.

If the child was originally the subject of local authority intervention, then the Special Guardian may be entitled to local authority funding by way of a Special Guardian allowance. An allowance is not afforded to the guardian under a Child Arrangements Order.

What is the process?

Your solicitor has to give the Local Authority 3 months’ notice of your intention to apply for the order. In this 3 month span, the Local Authority must undertake a thorough and detailed assessment of you to determine your suitability, taking into account your housing arrangements, financial circumstances and your ability to care for the child. If the assessment is negative, then your chances of a successful application for a Special Guardianship Order are greatly reduced. However, if successful, you can then submit your application to the local Family Court, who will set down a date for hearing, and order the Local Authority to set out any allowance they are going to offer you.

A Special Guardianship Order is a useful tool as it affords the child a permanent home, thus ensuring stability and security, without losing the link with their surviving birth parents.

Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk