Here at Higgins Miller, we specialise in family law, and that means dealing with highly stressful issues such as wills and probate, divorce and dealings with social services. When it comes to family life we know from experience that there are few things more likely to cause worry and stress than the well-being of children, and that’s why we’re happy to offer expert help to people seeking a Guardianship Order UK. A Guardianship Order UK is a legal process which appoints one or more individuals over the age of 18 as the ‘special guardian’ of a child. A Guardianship order UK application will be made by someone other than the child’s parents who genuinely feels that the child in question would receive better care from them than they receive from their actual parents.
In many cases – although not all – a Guardianship Order UK will be made after the child in question has been placed in the care of a close relative or family friend when it becomes clear that the actual parents are no longer able to offer the care and support the child needs. Once a Guardianship Order UK has been put in place, the guardians in question are given parental responsibility, which means that they can take decisions on matters such as the education given to the child or medical treatments, in a way which overrides the wishes of the actual parents. In simple terms, the guardians appointed under a Guardianship Order UK will be able to make decisions regarding the child in their care without the agreement of the parents, or indeed without having to inform the parents.
In very many cases, a Guardianship Order will happen as a result of Care Proceedings launched by a Local Authority which is seeking to remove children from their parents. In many cases, the court will be asked to make a Guardianship Order UK when Care Proceedings come to an end, without a formal application having been made. The fact that Higgins Miller are also expert at dealing with cases involving social services means that we are ideally placed to advise on cases of this kind, but we are equally happy to help clients who make applications for a Guardianship Order UK on their own behalf.
Although any person over the age of 18 who is not the parent of a child can apply for a Guardianship Order UK, the majority of applications are made by a member of the child’s family or a very close family friend. There are some people who have an automatic right to apply for a Guardianship Order UK and these are:
- Someone who has been made a guardian of the child under section 14A(5)(a) of the Children Act 1989
- Anyone who has been given the consent of the local authority, if the child in question is in care
- An authorised foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of at least 12 months
- Any person who already has a Child Arrangements Order or Residence Order for the child in place
- Any person who has been given consent for an application by the people with parental responsibility
- Any person who is a relative of the child, and with whom the child has been living for at least 12 months
- Any person with whom the child has been living for at least three of the past five years
Anyone who doesn’t fall under the categories listed above is still free to make an application for permission to the Court, and the majority of cases involve consent being granted by the natural parents, the local authority, or both.
The application process
If the local authority is involved in dealing with the care offered to a child then they will generally take the lead and assess any applicant for a Guardianship Order UK without the individual in question having to apply to the Court. In general, the natural parents of the child would put the individual forward as a ‘proposed alternative carer’ or, if you wish to make an application, you could approach the relevant social worker directly.
In most cases, the assessments needed for a Guardianship Order UK will be carried out over a period of weeks and months while care proceedings are being undertaken. In particularly clear-cut cases, the local authority may appoint an applicant for a Guardianship Order UK as a temporary foster carer for the child so that they can step into the role while the court case takes place. If the assessment carried out is positive then the local authority will generally provide funding for some legal advice.
If, on the other hand, the local authority is not directly supporting an application then you will need to apply to the Court to make a challenge for a Guardianship Order as a part of the care proceedings.
Although most applications for a Guardianship Order follow the local authority initiating care proceedings, it is possible to apply for a Guardianship Order directly, if you are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the child. Issues which raise this concern might involve neglect, absent parenting, child or parent disability or abuse. It would be typical for the person applying for a Guardianship Order UK of this kind to have been caring for the child on an informal basis and to be seeking to turn a temporary situation into a long term formal arrangement.
The local authority concerned will require at least three months’ notice of the intention to make an application, to enable them to carry out an assessment. In some cases, legal aid is available for clients seeking a Guardianship Order UK, particularly if care proceedings have already been started. Here at Higgins Miller we’re one of the few law firms still undertaking legal aid work, which means that clients don’t have to hesitate when it comes to applying for a Guardianship Order UK on the grounds of concern about the cost. We can advise on everything from the legal process of a Guardianship Order UK to how to liaise with local authorities and social services. At all times, whether the Guardianship Order is part of wider care proceedings or has been launched independently, we will work with our clients to ensure that the well-being of the child is placed at the centre of everything that happens.
If you want to find out more about applying for a Guardianship Order UK 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.