A Special Guardianship Order means that a child will live permanently with the person or people named in the order (the Special Guardians)
Special Guardian(s) will have the legal right to make important decisions about a child e.g. about education, medical treatment or religion. The Special Guardian(s) will have a greater say in these decisions than the birth parents do.
The Court can also make other orders that say who a child should live with, who a child should spend time with and how that time should be spent.
We have experience of representing parents, grandparents and other relatives, prospective Special Guardians, foster parents and children themselves in these important cases.
We understand why a parent might not object to their child living with somebody else but might not want that person to make all the decisions. We understand that a carer may be totally committed to looking after a child for the rest of his or her childhood but might need financial assistance or other services from the Local Authority to be able to do that. We understand that children who are old enough will have their own views about the decisions that are made about them and might want to put their own case to the Court.
We can help you in any of these situations.
- Can a parent be a Special Guardian of their own child.?
- No, the law specifically says a parent cannot have an SGO for their own child. However, they can have a Child Arrangements Order for the child to live with them or spend time with them.
- Can other family members apply for a Child Arrangements Order for my child?
- Yes, although they might need to make an application to the Court for permission to make the application. The Court will always consider the best interests of the child when it makes a Child Arrangements Order and birth parents and anyone else with parental responsibility will automatically be parties to the proceedings and entitled to put their point of view.
- I am looking after my grandchild because the birth parents are drug users. Social Services want me to have a Special Guardianship Order. Will I be entitled to financial support?
- In principle, you will be entitled to financial and other forms of support that the child might need e.g. therapy. Sometimes you might receive financial help to move or build a loft extension if your current home is not big enough to house the child as well as everyone else who already lives there. However, this is a complex area and you will have to undergo means testing. You should always take legal advice before agreeing the support offered by the Local Authority. Often the Local Authority will pay for “one-off” advice and you should ask for this.
- Can an SGO be overturned at a later stage?
- The making of an SGO can be appealed if there are proper grounds for this. You should take legal advice if this applies to you. An SGO can be discharged at a later date. The Court would want to know how the situation has changed and why it is being said that the SGO is no longer in the child’s best interests. This is complicated and you should talk to us if you think this applies.
- What is the difference between an SGO and a Child Arrangements Order saying that my grandchild should live with me?
- It’s all in the PR! With an SGO you are entitled to exercise PR to the exclusion of anybody else who has PR. You can’t do everything a parent could do e.g. consent to adoption or take the child out of the country for more than three months. However, on a day to day basis you hold the “trump card” in terms of decision making which can be extremely helpful if a drug using parent is not able to make proper decisions. You would still have PR if you had an order that your grandchild should live with you, but you would have to make decisions together with all the other people with PR which could be difficult.
- What is PR again?
- Parental Responsibility. The legal right and responsibility to make decisions about a child e.g. about health, education, religion. A birth mother automatically has PR. A birth father automatically has PR if he is married to the mother or is registered on the birth certificate. Otherwise, he has to enter into a PR agreement with the mother or apply for a Court Order. Adoption gives PR to the adopters and ends the parents’ PR forever. A Child Arrangements Order that a child should live with you will give you PR for that child. An order that a child should spend time with you might give you PR. It is complicated. As us for advice if you ae unsure.
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