In this blog, Beth Kivelä, a family law specialist solicitor at Rayden Solicitors, answers some frequently asked questions in relation to special guardianship orders.
What is a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order (“SGO”) is an order that appoints a person or persons as a child’s special guardian.
Why might I want to apply for an SGO?
Sometimes it becomes necessary for children to be looked after by someone other than their parents. For example, there may be a crisis in the family home which means that the child’s parents are unable to take care of them. In these circumstances, relatives and friends often come forward to take on the day-to-day care of the child for short or long term periods. If such an arrangement is likely to last until the child reaches the age of 18, the non-parent carer of the child may wish to apply for an SGO.
The purpose of an SGO is to give children a secure, permanent home without legally severing the child’s link to their birth parents. In that respect, SGOs bridge a gap between adoption at one extreme (whereby the child’s links to their birth parents are legally severed) and Child Arrangement Orders (which can be discharged upon a successful application by the child’s parent) at the other.
Foster carers who choose to care for a child long term are increasingly being encouraged to become special guardians to reinforce the child’s sense of belonging.
What does an SGO do?
An SGO gives a person parental responsibility for a child. This means that a special guardian has all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. 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 Arrangement Order.
How can I get an SGO?
You must be over the age of 18 and you must not be the parent of the child who is the subject of the application. Some people require permission of the Court before they can apply for an SGO.
You will have to inform the children’s services department of your local authority of your intention to apply for a SGO. The local authority will then invite you to go through an assessment process to be sure that an SGO is in the child’s best interests.
How long does an SGO last?
An SGO lasts until a child reaches the age of 18 unless discharged by the Court.
What other options are there?
You can apply for a Child Arrangement Order which says who the child is to live with. As with SGOs, some people require permission of the Court before they can make an application for a Child Arrangement Order.
This is a complicated area of law and we recommend you take specialist advice to consider your position carefully. Our team of family law specialists can help you to navigate the process of applying for applications relating to children, including Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangement Orders. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can assist you.