Special Guardianship Orders
When the Children Act 1989 was amended through the Adoption and Children Act 2002, a series of new provisions were introduced. One of these included a Special Guardianship Orders. This Order will appoint one or multiple individuals who are not the parents of a child to act as their special guardian. In doing so, this nominated individual will have a range of rights and responsibilities that relate to the child and their upbringing.
Special Guardianship Orders were introduced to bring some form of consistency and permanence in the life of a child when they have been placed with someone who is not their parent. The order is also an effective alternative to a residence or adoption order.
Special Guardianship Orders
Someone with a Special Guardianship Order can become the primary carer for a child, they will be awarded certain rights and responsibilities when the order is issued. In this sense, the special guardian will have parental responsibility. However, there are restrictions placed on parental responsibility in this capacity.
As an example, someone with parental responsibility under a Special Guardianship Order does not have permission to change the child’s name, nor can they remove the child from the UK without approval either from the Court or the original holders of parental responsibility.
The applicant who wishes to be appointed a special guardian must be at least 18 years old and there are specific categories of people who can apply such as:
- An individual who has been issued with a residence order
- An individual with whom the child has lived for at least three years
- Where a residence order has been granted, permission can be sought from the individual who holds the order
- If the child is currently being cared for by the local authority, the designated individual responsible for the child’s care
- A local authority foster parent with whom the child has been living for at least a year before an application is made
If the individual who wishes to apply for a Special Guardianship Order does not fall into any of these categories, they may still apply but first they must make an application to the court to do so. If permission is granted by the court, they are free to make the application.
The Local Authority
Where the child is currently being looked after by the local authority there are other requirements that have to be addressed before making an application. An application cannot be submitted unless the applicant has provided the local authority with at least three months notice of their intention to do so.
Once the local authority has received this, they are required to undertake an assessment and complete a Special Guardianship Order report.
The Court may grant a Special Guardianship Order in relation to a child in family proceedings when there are questions about the welfare of a child. A court issuing a Special Guardianship Order is obliged to take into consideration arrangements for contact between a child and their parents.
It is very important to note that a Section 8 Order can exist in conjunction with a Special Guardianship Order. Consequently if a guardianship order is issued, this does not remove the rights associated with parental responsibility.
About the Author
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers team and posted by Lloyd Barrett, Admin & Customer Services Manager for online advice service Expert Answers. Expert Answers provides legal advice to users in the UK who post a question on their secure platform.