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Legal Advice for Special Guardianship Order Applications

 

There are times when it is best for a child to live with someone other than their parents and 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 lawyers who are experienced in this area and can skilfully represent the interests of you.

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 understanding and guidance you need.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

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 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 Speacial Guardian the overall right to make decisions for the child.

Who can apply for Special Guardianship?

If you are over the age of 18, you can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if:

  • You are related to the child and they have either lived with you for at least one year immediately prior to the application, or the court has granted permission for you to apply for the order.
  • The child has been in your foster care for at least a year immediately preceding the application.
  • The child has lived with you for at least three of the previous five years.
  • You have permission from the local authority if the child is in their care.
  • You have permission from the court.

Joint applications can also be made for special guardianship and there is no requirement for those applying to be married.

How do I apply to be a Special Guardian?

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.

What support is available for Special Guardians?

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:

  • Financial assistance
  • Counselling and emotional support
  • Respite care
  • Access to support groups
  • 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.

My child is subject to a Special Guardianship Order. Can I have it removed?

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:

  • The terms of the order can be altered
  • The order can be removed completely and the child returned to their parents

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.

What are the alternatives to a Special Guardianship Order?

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:

Foster Care

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.

Child Arrangement 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

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. 

Why we care

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, we are here to offer the legal advice and support you will need.

What we do

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 2020 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 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.

We are renowned for our exceptional customer service and really take the time to get to know each of our clients so that we can offer a fully bespoke service, tailored to the specific circumstances of everyone we represent. 

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.

How much will it cost?

The price of our legal service is understandably one of the first questions we are asked. Clients want to know where they stand and what they can expect to pay. We are completely clear and transparent about our fees as well as any additional costs that could be incurred throughout the legal proceedings.

We don’t believe cost should be a barrier to exceptional legal service however and so we offer a number of different pricing plans so that clients can choose the one that best suits their financial situation.

From fixed fees and pay as you go arrangements to traditional hourly charges, we will work with you to find the best payment option for your budget and we also offer service level guarantees so that you can be confident in the legal provision you will receive from Lanyon Bowdler.

For more information about our fees and the various payment options we offer don’t hesitate to contact us today for a no-obligation conversation with one of our legal team.   

Contact Lanyon Bowdler’s Family Law Solicitors

For legal advice from our highly accomplished and practised family lawyers contact Lanyon Bowdler today. With offices in Shrewsbury, Bromyard, Conwy, Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry and Telford we are easily reachable by road or rail. We regularly act on behalf of clients throughout Shropshire, Herefordshire, Mid and North Wales and the Midlands, including Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but as a leading full-service law firm, we frequently represent clients nationally as well.

If you want the best in family law advice and representation, providing the best chance of success, don’t hesitate to contact us today or complete the online enquiry form and we'll get back to you.

Testimonials

The professionalism of the service received and the expert knowledge of the solicitor who handled my case.

- Mr K Whitelaw, Wolverhampton

He was great, he listened and suggested the best course of action - thank you.

- Mr T Graves, Shrewsbury

Everything was first class

- Miss Evans, Oswestry

Everything from start to finish made me feel they always had my best interests.

- Mrs D Manser

I always felt you were working in my best interests, but you didn't sugar coat or patronise me. My case was complex and I appreciated the professionalism shown and how the legal system "worked"

- Mrs J Bradford, Stafford

Excellent staff in all respects. The process was clear, well managed and avoided unnecessary stresses or delays. The meetings were as focused and efficient as possible and costs were kept to a minimum throughout.

- Ms D Greaves, Hereford

Quotes

Everything was first class

- Miss Evans, Oswestry

Everything from start to finish made me feel they always had my best interests.

- Mrs D Manser

The professionalism of the service received and the expert knowledge of the solicitor who handled my case.

- Mr K Whitelaw, Wolverhampton

He was great, he listened and suggested the best course of action - thank you.

- Mr T Graves, Shrewsbury

I always felt you were working in my best interests, but you didn't sugar coat or patronise me. My case was complex and I appreciated the professionalism shown and how the legal system "worked"

- Mrs J Bradford, Stafford

Excellent staff in all respects. The process was clear, well managed and avoided unnecessary stresses or delays. The meetings were as focused and efficient as possible and costs were kept to a minimum throughout.

- Ms D Greaves, Hereford