A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is an order appointing one or more individuals (other than parents) to be a child’s special guardian. Special guardianship is often considered as one of the options for a child who is the subject of care proceedings issued by the local authority/social services.

A special guardian must be aged 18 or over and not the parent of the child. Some people can apply for a special guardianship without obtaining prior permission from a court. Those people include people already looking after the child or who has the agreement of the parents to make the application. People not falling within these categories can still make an application but need to obtain permission from the court first.

You can apply for a special guardianship with or without a lawyer. We would always recommend that you seek advice from a specialist family law solicitor before you decide. Before you make an application, you have to attend an information meeting with a mediator. The forms that you need in order to be able to apply depend on whether or not you need permission from the court to make the application.

A special guardianship order gives non-parents a more permanent legal status than they would have if they were named in a child arrangements order (previously known as a residence order). The legal relationship between the child and his/her parents is not extinguished. Special guardians have parental responsibility (legal rights) for the child until the child reaches age 18. With a few exceptions the special guardians are entitled to exercise those rights without consulting the parents.

Local authorities have an obligation to support special guardians in some circumstances. The support may be either counselling, advice, or information as well as financial support. Support services include help with contact arrangements, therapy for the child and training for the special guardians. The amount of financial support will depend on the special guardian’s own financial circumstances. It is reviewed annually.

Each case is different, and the timeframe will depend on many factors including whether the parents of the child are contesting the application. Cases can easily take 6 -12 months.

Special guardianship orders are designed to provide the child/children with a permanent home. To support this aim, most people (with the exception of the special guardians themselves) need permission from the court to proceed with an application to change or discharge a special guardianship order.

The main benefit to the child is that he or she is brought up within his or her extended family and retains his/her sense of identity.

You will have to go through an assessment process. Once the local authority has received written notice of an intention to make an application for an order, the matter must be investigated, and a report prepared. The report includes detailed background information, the wishes and feelings of the child, a recommendation as to what arrangements there should be for contact and the implications for the child, the parents and the prospective special guardian of an order being made.

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Would you like to know more?

For help and advice, talk to a member of our team. They can advise on the best options in your matter.

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