What is a special guardianship order?
A special guardianship order is an order that can be granted by the court in relation to a child in your care up until they reach 18 years of age. Whilst it does not remove parental responsibility from the child’s parents, it does grant you overriding parental responsibility which therefore ensures that you are able to make decisions on a day to day basis on the child’s welfare.
Can I apply for a special guardianship order?
Certain categories of people can apply to become a special guardian:
- Any guardian of the child;
- Any individual in whose favour a child arrangement order was in force with respect to the child;
- A Local Authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
- A relative with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
- If the child is in the care of the Local Authority, any person who has consent of the Local Authority;
- Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three out of the last five years;
- Anyone who has been granted leave of the court.
You cannot apply to become a special guardian if you are either under 18 years of age or the parent of the child.
What do I have to do if I want to become a special guardian?
You will have to notify the Local Authority in writing that you wish to be assessed as a special guardian for the child. Once the Local Authority has receipt of your written notification it will have to undertake an assessment of you within three months. There is statutory guidance which clearly sets out what needs to be taken into consideration in any assessment undertaken by the Local Authority and it will then have to provide a written report which you will have access to. In addition, the Local Authority should also take into consideration your means and financial resources by way of a financial assessment to ascertain whether you are eligible for financial assistance. Again there is statutory guidance which clearly sets out what needs to be taken into consideration when undertaking such an assessment.
It may be that you have put yourself forward to be assessed as a special guardian during the course of care proceedings in which case a separate application is not deemed necessary. If however there are no existing proceedings ongoing in relation to the child you may have to make a stand alone application.
What are my rights as a special guardian?
If you are granted a special guardianship order you will have overriding parental responsibility. This means you will be entitled to make welfare decisions on a day to day basis in respect of the child in your care. That being said there are circumstances in which your parental responsibility does not mean that you can act without the consent of the other people that share parental responsibility:
- You cannot change the child’s name;
- You cannot remove the child from the country for more than 3 months;
- You cannot consent to the child being adopted.
If a Local Authority is recommending that you are granted a special guardianship order then it must provide a support plan alongside its assessment which sets out what support you will be entitled to if an order is made. You may also be entitled to financial support but this will be subject to an assessment. Any support put in place must be reviewed by the Local Authority in cases where either your’s or the child’s circumstances change. Any financial support must be assessed periodically.
Contact our Special Guardianship Order Solicitors in Wakefield on 01924 332395.