Special Guardianship Orders were introduced to meet the needs of children for whom none of the previously available options, ie. adoption or long term fostering, are entirely suitable. It is intended to combine the advantages of a continued legal relationship with the birth family with the security of a long term placement.
One important aspect of Special Guardianship is that there are restrictions on its discharge or revocation. A Special Guardianship Order is revocable, and so can never be as secure as an adoption but the legislation is plainly geared towards the child’s long term future and it is anticipated that the occasions when such an order is discharged will be rare.
The effect of a Special Guardianship Order is to :-
a. Secure the child’s long term placement;
b. Give the special guardian parental responsibility.
c. Maintain the child’s links with his or her parents,
d. Enable the special guardian to control, on a day to day basis, the parents’ exercise of their parental responsibility.
Those who can apply for Special Guardianship Orders include wider family members and foster carers.
A key feature of a Special Guardianship Order and what is likely to make it most attractive, is that the special guardian may exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of the child’s parents.
In order to apply for a Special Guardianship Order, notice must be given to the child’s Local Authority who then must prepare a report. The notice period has to be at least three months. The Local Authority have to prepare a full assessment together with a support plan which details the assistance the Local Authority is willing to give (including financial help).
The court may vary or discharge a Special Guardianship Order on its own motion or on the application as of right by the special guardian, any person of a current Residence Order, any person with parental responsibility other than a parent or step-parent or a Local Authority designated in a Care Order in respect of a child.
People can also apply to vary or discharge a Special Guardianship Order with leave (permission of the court). These people are the child itself, any parent or guardian or any step-parent with parental responsibility. However it will be difficult for leave to be given to a parent or guardian unless there has been a significant change in circumstances since the Special Guardianship Order was made.
Our Family Law Solicitors are ready and at hand to discuss your requirements with you and can provide a free no obligation appointment (half an hour). Lynsey Rees who is a member of the Law Society Family Advanced Scheme and a member of the Children Panel can be contacted on 01524 32437 or via our contact page.