Special Guardianship Orders – What are they and what is the process?

This article offers a brief guide to the law relating to Special Guardianship Orders and does not cover all aspects of the matter.

What is a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) and how does it work?

The law relating to a SGO is contained within s.14 of the Children Act 1989, and if granted by the Court it gives that person “super-parental responsibility.” This means that a Special Guardian can exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility, except for another Special Guardian. In essence, a Special Guardian can make decisions about the child’s care, such as schooling, that override the decisions and wishes of the child’s parents or a person holding a Child Arrangements Order.

Parental responsibility is defined as “all the rights, duties and powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent has in relation to the child and their property”.  This is a wide concept and it is not realistically possible to define each and every area that parental responsibility will cover.

Please read our article on “Parental Responsibility – what is it and how can you acquire it” for further information on parental responsibility https://www.barrettandco.co.uk/2019/03/26/parental-responsibility-what-is-it-and-how-can-you-acquire-it/

However, there are limitations, a Special Guardian cannot change the child’s surname or remove the child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales for a period in excess of three months without the permission of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child. A SGO lasts until the child is 18 or unless it is varied by the Court.

The Court Process

Before making an application for an SGO, you may require permission from the Court in order to make an application. You do not require permission from the Court in the following circumstances:

  • You are a guardian of the child;
  • You have obtained a Child Arrangements Order for the child to live with you and it is currently in force;
  • The child has lived with you for a period of at least three years (this need not be continuous but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before the application is made);
  • Where a Child Arrangements Order is in force, you have received the consent of every person in whose favour the Order was made;
  • Where the child is in the care of the Local Authority, if you have received consent from the Local Authority to make the application;
  • You have obtained the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child;
  • If you are a Local Authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • You are a relative with whom the child has lived for at least one year immediately preceding the application.

The Local Authority should be notified three months in advance of your intention to apply for an SGO as they need to complete a Special Guardianship Report. The Report will consider whether you can satisfy the needs of the child and also consider whether there are any safeguarding concerns (this may mean that a police check or DBS check will be required). The report may also state whether the Local Authority believes it will be in the child’s best interest to grant a Special Guardianship Order.

The report may also consider whether a support plan will be necessary for the prospective Special Guardian. The support plan can consider whether any support, services or financial support may be relevant in order to help care for the child

If you would like further information on Special Guardianship Order or other children matters, please contact our Family Department on 0118 9589711 or email eleanor.pearson@barrettandco.co.uk. We offer a one-hour confidential fixed fee meeting at our Reading office for £95 including VAT.

 

Further reading

Family Law

Appointing a Guardian

Guardianship – the facts

Do I need a Will?

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