Applying for a Special Guardianship Order

The solicitors at Higgins Miller specialise in handling family law cases. This means that we work alongside clients going through often very stressful life events such as divorce, adoption or dealing with wills and probate. We help these clients by combining expert legal advice with strong emotional support, and this is particularly the case when helping clients to apply for a Special Guardianship Order.

A Special Guardianship Order is a legal order which makes it possible for a child to live with someone other than their parent on a long term basis. The reasons why someone might need a Special Guardianship Order are many and varied, running from family breakdown and homelessness to problems with addiction or domestic violence. In simple terms, Special Guardianship is something which is used to protect the well-being of a child when the parental home is not the safest or most supportive place for them to live. 

A Special Guardianship Order will be made by the Family Court, having been convinced that a child or young person should live full time with someone else. The person or persons with whom the child is placed under a Special Guardianship Order becomes a Special Guardian once the order has been made, under laws which were introduced in the Adoption and Children Act 2002. Once a Special Guardianship Order has been made, the following facts will apply:

  • The child or young person who is the subject of the Special Guardianship Order will have a secure, long term placement 
  • The Special Guardians themselves will be granted Parental Responsibility in regard to the child or young person
  • Links between the child or young person and their birth parent(s) will still be maintained
  • The Special Guardian in question will have day to day control of the child or young person’s upbringing and will exercise Parental Responsibility over and above anyone else with Parental Responsibility, with the exception of any other Special Guardian
  • If the child or young person is already subject to an existing Care Order, that Care Order will end as soon as the Special Guardianship is made

Parental Responsibility, which was mentioned above, refers to the legal rights, powers, duties, authority and responsibilities of a parent over a child or young person and the child or young person’s property. Once Parental Responsibility has been granted to a person, they have the legal right to make decisions relating to the care and upbringing of the child or young person. If more than one person has Parental Responsibility, then they must both agree on any important decisions made with regard to the child or young person. The following are the kind of decisions which must be agreed between everyone with Parental Responsibility for a child:

  • Where the child lives
  • Whether any particular medical treatment is given to the child 
  • Where and how the child will be educated
  • Whether the child is raised in a religion, and if so which religion
  • Choosing the name for a child and registering their birth
  • Consenting for the child to leave the country, whether this is for a holiday or to live elsewhere on a permanent basis

There are some alternatives to a Special Guardianship Order, and these include adoption. When a child or young person has been adopted by someone other than their birth parent(s), the birth parent(s) in question lose any Parental Responsibility and in the vast majority of cases the child or younger person will sever all links with the birth parent(s) or their wider family. Another alternative to a Special Guardianship Order is for someone to offer long term fostering to a child or young person who is, for whatever reason, unable to stay living in the parental home. A foster parent in this scenario, however, does not get Parental Responsibility over the child or young person, and will not therefore have the legal right to deal with the kid of decisions outlined above. Because of this, amongst other things, long term fostering doesn’t offer the kind of stability and sense of belonging which is so important to children and young people. It is also possible to apply to the Family Court for a Child Arrangements order, which details the arrangements for where a child or young person will live. The person named in a Child Arrangements Order will be granted the same kind of Parental Responsibility as the birth parent(s). 

Applying for a Special Guardianship

In the first instance, any person applying for a Special Guardianship Order needs to be over the age of 18 and must not be a parent of the child or young person. Joint applications for Special Guardianship can be made, and there is no legal requirement for the joint applicants to be married. An application for Special Guardianship can be made if:

  • The applicant is a Local Authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for a period of at least 12 months directly prior to the application being made
  • The applicant is someone with whom the child has lived has lived for three of the past five years, as long as the child has not stopped living with them more than three months before the application is made
  • The applicant is the guardian of the child 
  • The child is in Local Authority care and the Local Authority gives consent for the person(s) to make an application
  • The applicant already has a Child Arrangements Order or Residence Order in place relating to the child or young person
  • The applicant is a relative of the child, and the child has lived with them for at least 12 months prior to the application being made
  • The applicant has been given permission to make an application by the court

Anyone wishing to apply for Special Guardianship will need to inform Children Services in writing at least three months before an application is submitted to the court. Upon being told, Children Services will make an investigation of the applicant and prepare a report for the Court, detailing whether they think the applicant is suitable to be a Special Guardian. If the child or young person is being cared for by the Local Authority then the applicant will need to inform that Local Authority, and the Local Authority will write a report for the court, stating whether they feel the applicant will be suitable as a Special Guardian.  

If you’d like to find out more about applying for a Special Guardianship Order please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.


April 17, 2023