What is a Special Guardianship Order?
Special Guardianship Orders (“SGO”) are private law orders which give the Special Guardian parental responsibility for the child concerned.
Why might an application for a Special Guardianship Order be made?
An alternative to adoption, SGO’s provide stability for a child who for whatever reason cannot continue to live with their birth family or very sadly where a parent has passed away. However, unlike adoption, the child is able to maintain a relationship with their birth family and basic legal links between them are maintained.
The birth parents are still legally the child’s parents but their parental responsibility is limited.
Subject to any existing Children Act 1989 Orders, a Special Guardian is entitled to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility.
Who can become a Special Guardian?
A court may make a Special Guardianship Order in respect of a child on the application of:-
(A) Any guardian of the child
(B) A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application
(C) Anyone who holds a lives with order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a residence order is in force
(D) Anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years
(E) Anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child
(F) Any person, including the child, who has the leave permission of the court to apply.
One or more individuals can become a Special Guardian. Any Special Guardian must be over 18 and cannot be the parent of the child.
The Court can make a SGO of its own motion in family proceedings, even if no application has been made.
How to make an application and what must the Court consider?
An application can be made to any Family Court.
An application form needs to be made on a C1 and C13A, and should be accompanied by Form FM1, confirming attendance of the applicant at a mediation meeting or outlining the reasons why the applicant has not attended a meeting.
Before making an application, the applicant must give the Local Authority three months notice of their intention to apply. This is a very important step as the Local authority will then prepare a report, dealing with the suitability of the applicant. The Court cannot make a SGO without having received this report.
Before making the Order, the Court must also consider whether to make a Section 8 Order or vary/ discharge any Section 8 Order that is already in place.
Other points to take into consideration:
Unlike adoption, the SGO can be varied/ discharged.
It is also worth noting that when a SGO is in place, no person may cause the child to be known by a new surname or remove him/ her from the jurisdiction, without either the written consent of every person who has personal responsibility or the leave of the Court. Having said this, a Special Guardian can remove the child from the jurisdiction for up to 3 months without the consent of the others with parental responsibility.
What is it like living with an SGO?
People become Special Guardians for a number of reasons. For a day to day insight into what it’s like living with a SGO a look at the Instagram account @notyouraveragefamily is recommended. Their blogs provide a refreshingly honest and heart-warming insight into what it is like living with an SGO, even in the most tragic of circumstances.
If you would like to speak with one of our experts, please contact our offices for further information.