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Special Guardianship Orders

A special guardian is an adult who has been appointed under a special guardianship order (SGO) to care for a child on a long-term basis. An SGO falls somewhere between a child arrangements order (which determines where a child lives) and an adoption order. It is intended to provide a child with a secure and permanent home without legally ending the relationship with their birth parents.  

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What does a special guardianship order do and why might it be suitable? 

SGOs are commonly used where children are to live with, and be cared for, by wider family members, for example a grandparent. In these instances, family members will usually have decided between themselves who will care for the child, before the application is made. These orders are also used where some level of support is required from the local authority or where foster carers choose to care for a child on a long-term basis. 

A special guardianship order confers parental responsibility on the special guardian. This gives the special guardian various rights and duties including: 

  • The duty to care for a child 

  • The right to have the child live with them 

  • The responsibility and authority for choosing where a child can go to school or what medical treatment they should undergo.  

However, a special guardian will not be able to change a childs surname or remove a child from England & Wales for more than three months unless every person with parental responsibility, or the court, gives permission.  

Significantly, the special guardian will be able to exercise their parental responsibility to the exclusion of everyone else with parental responsibility, except for another special guardian.  This power is not granted to anyone else with PR and, as a result, a special guardian may take steps for the childs benefit even if the parents disagree. However, a special guardian wouldbe recommended to consult a childs parents on major issues (such as medical procedures) and a special guardian should be mindful of the fact that a parent could bring an application for a specific issue order (SIO) to challenge any of their decisions. An SIO is an order sought from the family court to determine a specific question in connection with an aspect of PR. 

A special guardianship order will last until a child turns 18 years old or the court discharges it.  

Who can be a special guardian? 

Any adult, save for the childs parents, can apply to be a special guardian, and more than one person may be appointed. Some people will need the courts permission to apply to become a special guardian, although this is not required where any of the following apply: 

  •  You are the childs guardian 

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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