Our senior family solicitor, Jennifer McNeil, specialises in Special Guardianship Orders. Holland Family Law offers a fixed fee service for Special Guardianship Orders in Leicester and the East Midlands, up to and including the initial hearing. But what is a Special Guardianship Order?
An application for a Special Guardianship Order is usually made by a family relative, but most commonly the grandparents of children who are on the verge of being taken into care because their parents are unable to look after them properly – this can be for any number of reasons including:
- Mental health issues
- Custodial sentence
- Drug addiction
The list goes on.
Adoption and Children Act 2002
Special Guardianship Orders were introduced as part of the Adoption and Children Act in 2002. Special Guardianship is an order that is made by the Family Court, which places a child or young person into the care of someone that is not their parents, as a long-term arrangement.
What is the Purpose of a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) serves many purposes, but most importantly an SGO puts the interests of the child first to ensure that they are cared for. This looks like:
- Securing arrangements for a child or young person long-term
- Granting parental responsibility to the special guardian(s)
- Maintaining links with the child’s or young person’s biological parents
- Giving the special guardian(s) full and overriding parental responsibility for a child or young person meaning they have the final say on decisions about the child
Who Can Apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
Only a person over the age 18 can apply for an SGO. An individual or joint application with another person can be made and the following people can apply to be special guardians:
- Any guardian of a child or young person
- Any relative of a child or young person (grandparents, aunties, uncles, older siblings etc…), provided the child has lived with them for a minimum of 12 months prior to an SGO application
- A person with a Child Arrangement Order or Residence Order for the child or young person
- Anyone with whom the child or young person has lived with for a minimum of three years out of the last five years
- An individual or couple that has permission of their local authority if a child is in care
- A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived with for a minimum of 12 months prior to an SGO application
- Anyone who has the consent of those who have parental responsibility
- Anyone who has the approval of the Family Court to make an application
The court does have the power to make an SGO even if these criteria are not strictly met where the court deems it necessary to do so.
The Family Court and Special Guardianship Orders
The Family Court plays a considerable role in the SGO process and will decide whether an SGO is in the best interests of a child or young person. The court will also determine whether a contact order should be made alongside an SGO.