Who can apply to be a Special Guardian?
You can apply to be the child’s Special Guardian either on an individual basis or jointly as a couple including same sex couples or with others. You need not be married but you must be over 18 years of age. You can apply to the Court to be a Special Guardian if:
- You are the Guardian of the child
- You have a Residence Order in respect of that child
- You are a Local Authority Foster Carer with whom the child has lived with for at least one year prior to the application being made
- The child has lived for three out of the last five years with you
- The child is in the care of the Local Authority and you have their consent to apply
- You are the child concerned
- You are any other person with permission of the Court to apply.
Applying for a Special Guardianship Order?
If you qualify to apply to be a Special Guardian you must give the Local Authority 3 months written notice of your intention to apply for an order.
The notice given to the local authority will trigger their statutory obligation to report to the Court on the following:
- The suitability of the prospective Special Guardian(s)
- The child in respect of which the order is sought
- The child’s feelings and wishes
- The child’s birth family
- Contact arrangements
The report will also give recommendations as to whether or not an order should be made. It is open to the local authority to arrange for an other suitable organisation to prepare the report. The Court cannot make a decision without such a report.
What is the Courts and Parental Responsibility?
In all circumstances the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration. The Court must consider the whole range of options available before making a Special Guardianship Order including:
- Whether to vary or discharge any other existing orders i.e. a residence order or care order relating to that child
- Whether to make a contact order in respect of that child
The Court may also consider changing he child’s surname or granting permission for the child to be removed from the country for a period of over 3 months. It is also within the Court’s power to make a Special Guardianship Order with respect to a child’s welfare in any family proceedings even if no application by any party has been made.
Termination or Variation?
An application for variation or termination of a Special Guardianship Order can be made to the Court by any of the following people:
- The Special Guardian
- The Local Authority with a care order
- The holder of a Residence Order if still valid or someone who had one before the Special Guardianship Order was made.
If the child, parent, step-parent, guardian, or anyone with parental responsibility wishes to vary or terminate the existing Special Guardianship Order, they will need to:
First get the permission of the court and secondly show a change of circumstance since the making of the Special Guardianship Order.
This is only a brief introduction to the law relating to Special Guardianship Orders and is not a substitute for detailed legal advice.