A Special Guardianship Order (“SGO”) is an Order appointing one or more individuals to be a child’s Special Guardian.
In general terms
- it is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents
- the children are considered to be in need of a legally secure placement
- it is more secure than a Residence Order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it without permission of the Court
- it is less secure than Adoption because it does not end the legal relationship between a child and the birth parents
Who can be a Special Guardian?
You cannot be a Special Guardian of your own child but anyone who is over 18 years of age and meets the following criteria can be
- any Guardian of the child
- any individual who has a Residence Order or any person where a Residence Order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the Residence Order was made
- anyone with whom the child has lived for at least 3 out of the last 5 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 1 year prior to the Application
- anyone who has the consent of those with Parental responsibility
- anyone who has permission from the Court
Anyone seeking an SGO has to give 3 months written Notice to the appropriate Local Authority of their intention to apply for an Order.
For an Order to be made the Court must
- decide that an SGO is the most appropriate Order to make in the best interests of the child
- consider whether a Contact Order should also be made and whether any existing Orders should be varied or discharged
- have the benefit of a Local Authority Report dealing with the suitability of the Applicant and any other relevant matters
Effects of an SGO
- any existing Care or Contact Order is discharged
- Parental responsibility is conferred on the Special Guardian
- the Special Guardian has responsibility for day to day decisions relating to the care and upbringing of the child
- a Special Guardian can remove the child from the UK for up to 3 months without the consent of others with parental responsibility or leave of the Court
- the Court can authorise a child being taken out of the jurisdiction for longer than 3 months
- the Court may allow the child to be known by a new surname
Each Local Authority must make arrangements for the provision of Special Guardianship Support Services.
These are complex issues that arise at a time that is often emotionally fraught for all those involved. If you need advice on this or any other aspect of the Law relating to caring for Children, we have a dedicated Team specialising in all areas of Children Law.