There are times when it is best for a child to live with someone other than their parents. If this is the case, a Special Guardianship Order will be made by the court.
This process can be emotional and complex, and it is essential that you take professional legal advice from practised family law solicitors who are experienced in this area and can skillfully represent you with the best interest of the child at heart.
If you or a member of your family need advice or information about Special Guardianship Orders, contact the family law experts at Lanyon Bowdler, who will offer the guidance you need.
If the family court believes it is in the best interests of a child, then they will arrange for them to live with someone other than their parents by issuing a Special Guardianship Order.
The person named in the order will become the child’s Special Guardian and will be responsible for looking after the child, making the day to day decisions, and meeting their needs.
Although the Special Guardian will be granted parental responsibility, this will not be removed from the child’s parents. However, the Special Guardianship Order is an enhanced parental responsibility that overrides normal parental responsibility and gives the Special Guardian the overall right to make decisions for the child.
If you are over the age of 18, you can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if:
Joint applications can also be made for special guardianship and there is no requirement for those applying to be married.
Anyone wishing to apply for a Special Guardianship Order must inform the local authority of their intention three months ahead of submission. They must then make an application to the family court.
The Children’s Services department will then contact you to assess your suitability and will prepare a report for the court outlining their recommendations.
If the child concerned is in local authority care when the Special Guardianship Order is granted, an assessment will automatically be carried out to determine if financial or practical support is required. If the child is not a looked after child, an assessment for support can still be requested by the special guardians or the child themselves for:
Training and advice to help the Special Guardian meet the needs of the child
Eligibility for financial support is means tested but financial assistance to cover out of pocket expenses is available to all. Such expenses might include facilitating contact visits with the child’s family or to cover childcare so that the Special Guardian can have a break.
Access to other support will be determined by considering the needs of both the Special Guardian and the child.
Although a Special Guardianship Order is usually in place until a child is 18, if there has been a significant change in circumstances the order can be changed in one of two ways:
Anyone wishing to end a Special Guardianship Order must apply to the court, where the evidence will then be examined to determine if the change in circumstances is significant enough to vary the original order. The court will also take into consideration the likely impact of their decision on the child and how disruptive another change in living arrangements would be for them.
In the situation where a child is considered to be at risk from harm if they remain in the family home, there are several alternatives to a Special Guardianship Order:
Unlike a Special Guardian, a foster carer does not have parental responsibility for a child and so is unable to make key decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. Even if the placement is long-term, foster care does not always afford the child the sense of security and belonging that can be gained through a Special Guardianship Order.
A Child Arrangement Order is granted by the court, detailing where the child should live in the interests of their safety and well-being. The person into whose care they are charged will also have parental responsibility for the child, along with the child’s parents.
Adoption severs all connection between the child and their birth parents, placing them permanently with another family. Birth parents lose all parental responsibility once the court order has been issued and links with the wider biological family are also lost in the majority of cases.
As family and child law specialists with families of our own, we understand the complex dynamics that can exist within many households and appreciate that no two families are the same.
The one thing we all have in common, however, is how important our loved ones are to us and, when it comes to children in particular, we only want the best for them.
That is why, whether you are seeking to apply for a Special Guardianship Order or are looking to have one removed, our experienced Guardianship Solicitors are here to offer the legal advice and support you will need.
The team of exceptional family lawyers at Lanyon Bowdler are recognised as experts in their field and includes members of the Law Society Family Panel and accredited specialists of Resolution, a national organisation of family solicitors. Lanyon Bowdler is also listed in the 2022 edition of The Legal 500, an independent, national guide of recommended law firms in the UK and is also recognised by Chambers UK in their 2022 rankings of leading solicitors. It is a source of pride for us that we come so highly recommended by the industry but it is the feedback from clients, who go on to recommend us to others, that means so much.
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We are thorough and meticulous in our planning with a keen eye for detail, which places our clients at an advantage during any court proceedings. We will carefully prepare all your paperwork including supporting evidence for assessments carried out by the court, and will provide you with expert representation throughout.
We can also provide you with assistance during any assessments carried out by the local authority for any financial or practical support you may need, and can help with gathering all the relevant documentation.
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