- Page Contents
- How Secure Is A Special Guardianship Order?
- When Special Guardianship Is Preferred Option?
- Who Can Apply?
- Procedure For Guardianship Order
- Support Services By Local Authorities
- How Can We Help?
- How Much We Charge?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A special guardianship order is a court order made under the Children Act 1989 appointing one or more persons to be a child's 'special guardian'. Application for Special Guardianship Order may be made by an individual or jointly by two or more people to become special guardians. Joint applicants do not need to be married. Special guardians must be 18 or over. The parents of a child may not become that child's special guardian.
Special Guardianship Orders were introduced into the Children Act 1989 by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. A special guardianship order is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement as per family court order. The Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian parental responsibilities, and leaves the guardian free to make decisions about how to bring up your child or children. The special guardianship order does not change birth parent's legal relationship with the child, so they remain a member of birth parent's family even though they are living with their special guardian.
A Special Guardianship Order is a more secure order than a Child Arrangements Order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the Family Court to do so, 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.
A Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian legal parental responsibility for the child which is expected to last until the child is 18. But, unlike Adoption Orders, these orders do not remove parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents, although their ability to exercise it is extremely limited.
In practice, this means that the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority, and the special guardian will have more clear responsibility for all day-to day decisions about caring for the child or young person, and for taking important decisions about their upbringing, for example their education. And, importantly, although birth parents retain their legal parental responsibility, the special guardian only has to consult with them about these decisions in exceptional circumstances.
Any decision to apply for a Special Guardianship Order should clearly always be based on meeting the needs of the child or young person, but there are particular situations where it might be more appropriate:
- Older children and young people in long-term care, as described above, who may wish to retain some legal ties with their birth family and who do not want to be adopted.
- Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who need a secure, permanent home here, but have strong attachments to their family abroad.
- Prospective carers from minority ethnic groups who may wish to offer a child a permanent family, but have religious or cultural difficulties with adoption as it is set out in law.
- Kinship care, where members of the extended family may not want to adopt the child, but do need more security and clarity about day-to-day decision making.
Close relatives of a child can apply to be their Special Guardian – and this might involve grandparents, an uncle or aunt, or a godparent or a close family friend applying to the court for a Special Guardianship Order.
The following people may apply to be special guardians:
- Any guardian of the child;
- Any individual who has a child arrangements order or any person where a child arrangements order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the child arrangements order is made;
- 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 preceding the application;
- Anyone who has the consent of those with parental responsibility;
- Anyone who has the leave of the court.
NOTE: You must be over 18 years of age and you can apply on your own or jointly with another person.
Anyone wishing to apply for a Special Guardianship Order must inform the local authority of their intention three months ahead of submission. You must then make an application to the family court. The Children’s Services department will then contact you to assess your suitability and will prepare a report for the court outlining their recommendations.
There is nothing in the Special Guardianship Regulations setting out a planning process which local authorities must follow, as there is for adoption. Each local authority will need to establish their own policies and procedures to make a decision about special guardianship for children in their care, and it is not necessary to have a panel to make this recommendation.
3 Months Written Notice
Any person who wishes to apply for a special guardianship order must give three months' written notice to the local authority of their intention to apply. The only exception to this is where a person has the leave of the court to make a competing application for a special guardianship order where an application for an adoption order has already been made. This is in order to prevent the competing application delaying the adoption order hearing.
Local Authority Report
Local authorities are required to produce to the court a report on all children, not just those who are looked after, when an application is made. On receipt of notice of an application, or if the court makes a request, the local authority must investigate and prepare a report to the court about the suitability of the applicants to be special guardians.
The regulations say that the local authority report should include certain key information about the child such as:
- Whether the child has brothers and sisters and details of both parents.
- The relationship a child has with other family members and the arrangements for the child to see or keep in touch with different family members.
- Details of the child's relationship with his/her parents.
- The parent/s' and the child's wishes and feelings.
- The prospective Guardian's family composition and circumstances.
- Parenting capacity.
- Medical information on the child, prospective special guardian and the birth parent(s).
- An assessment of how a Special Guardianship Order would meet a child's long term interests as compared with other types of order.
This report must include information about the child, the child’s wishes, the child’s birth family, contact arrangements, the prospective special guardian and recommendations about whether or not an order should be made. The local authority is expected to start work on this report, or arrange for someone else to do it, as soon as possible after receiving the notice. The court cannot make an order without having received a report. Local authorities are expected to ensure that the social worker who prepares the report is suitably qualified and experienced, but there are no restrictions on who can write the report as there are for adoption.
The court must decide that a special guardianship order is the most appropriate order to make in the best interests of the child. The court must consider whether, in addition to the making of a special guardianship order, a contact order should be made and whether any existing Section 8 Orders should be varied or discharged. The court must have the benefit of the local authority report dealing with the suitability of the applicant and any other matters that the local authority consider relevant before it can make an order (Children Act 1989, section 14A(8), (9). When considering whether to make a special guardianship order, the welfare of the child is the court's paramount consideration and the welfare checklist in section 1 of the Children Act 1989 applies.
Before making a special guardianship order, the court must consider whether to vary or discharge any other existing order made under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This could include a contact order or a residence order. The court should also consider whether a contact order should be made at the same time as the special guardianship order. A contact order may be made, for example, to require continued contact with the child’s parents.
At the same time as making a special guardianship order, the court may also give leave for the child to be known by a new surname and give permission for the child to be taken out of the UK for periods longer than three months.
Each local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services which may include:
- Financial assistance (means tested);
- Assistance with the arrangements for contact between a child, his/her parents and any relatives that the local authority consider to be beneficial;
- This assistance can include cash to help with the cost of travel, entertainment, and mediation to help resolve difficulties on contact;
- Respite care;
- Counselling, advice, information and other support services;
- Services to enable children, parents and special guardians to discuss matters, this might include setting up a support group;
- Therapeutic services for the child.
Our team of dedicated Family Lawyers have years of experience dealing in all aspects of Family Law and can assist and advise you in securing a Special Guardianship Order. Applying for a Special Guardianship Order is a big decision and it is very important to get the right legal advice and representations. Our experienced family lawyers offer clear, sound legal advice on Special Guardianship Orders and can talk you through the considerations you need to make before you decide if this is the correct order for you and the child.
As your appointed legal representative for a Special Guardianship Order, our highly experienced family law solicitors can provide the required legal help and assistance with your Special Guardianship Order which may include the following:
- We will assess your eligibility for a Special Guardianship Order by fully assessing your personal circumstances;
- We will give the required notice to the Local Authority for a Special Guardianship Order;
- We will advise you on and assist you with an application to the Family Court for a Guardianship Order;
- We can represent you in family court hearing where the Judge will decide whether a Special Guardianship Order is in the best interests of the child;
- We can also advise you on the allowances and support you should expect to receive by law and statute and statutory regulations and whether the support plan being offered by the Local Authority meets the requirements of the child and negotiate on your behalf with the Local Authority.
Our Fixed Fees For Special Guardianship Order
Our fixed fees for various stages of the special guardianship order are given in the fee table below. The agreed fixed fee will be dependent on the volume of work involved in the case and the complexity of the matter. Please be advised that our fixed fees do not cover the Barrister's fees.
|Casework Stage||Fixed Fee Range|
||From £700 + VAT To £1,000 + VAT|
|Interim Hearing (if listed)||From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT|
Preparation for Final Hearing which includes the following:
|From £3,000 + VAT To £4,000 + VAT|
Our Hourly Rates For Special Guardianship Order
- Our family law solicitors can act for your matter on hourly rate basis with hourly rate from £150 + VAT to £250 + VAT per hour in relation to your special guardianship order application. The agreed hourly rate will be dependent on the complexity of the matter.