What is a Special Guardianship Order?
SGOs are seen as a halfway house between adoption and Child Arrangement Orders. Their purpose is to give children a secure, permanent home without legally severing the child’s link to their birth parents. They are frequently used in situations where the child is remaining in the care of their wider family and is likely to require long-term support from a local authority.
An SGO confers parental responsibility to the person holding the order. They can make decisions on a child’s living arrangements, schooling, and leisure etc. If you have an SGO, your decisions override anyone else who has parental responsibility, except another SGO holder. The only exceptions to this is a special guardian cannot change the child’s surname or take them overseas for three months or more without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility.
How do I apply for an SGO?
To apply for an SGO, you must first establish whether you can make an application without leave of the Court. We can quickly advise you whether leave is required and if it is, make a robust application for permission.
When making an application for an SGO you need to inform the relevant local authority of your intention at least three months prior.
It should be noted that if there are ongoing care proceedings, the leave to the Court and notification to the local authority requirements are regularly overlooked to expedite the process and allow the child to enjoy some stability. If this occurs, we will ensure such waivers are recorded to avoid any future disputes.
As well as assisting you with the application form, we will prepare a detailed covering letter stating your:
- Relationship to the child.
- Experience of caring for the child.
- Understanding of the reasons why the child should not be cared for by their parents.
- Steps taken to notify the local authority of your intention to apply for an SGO.
- Plans for the child’s care including future contact with parents.
What is a Local Authority Report?
To make an SGO the Court requires a report that deals with the matters set out in section 14 A (8) of the Children Act 1989. These are:
- the suitability of the applicant to be a special guardian;
- such matters (if any) as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State; and
- any other matter which the local authority consider to be relevant.
In most cases, this information will be provided in a Local Authority Report.
Additionally, the Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016 require further information regarding the child and prospective special guardian, including:
- Any harm which the child has suffered.
- Any risk of future harm to the child from the child’s parents, relatives, or another relevant person.
- The child’s current and likely future needs.
- The nature of the prospective special guardian’s current and past relationship with the child.
- The ability to meet the child’s current and future needs, particularly those resulting from harm that the child has suffered.
- The ability to protect the child from current and future risks from the child’s parents, relatives, or relevant person, especially regarding contact.
- The ability and sustainability of the placement until the child turns 18.
The local authority will also provide a Support Plan, which sets out the social and financial support provided to the child subject to an SGO application.