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The purpose of a Special Guardianship Order is to place a child with a degree of permanency through a Private Law Order with a non-parent.The permanency of the Order is more than that of a Residence Order but is less final than an Adoption Order.

A Special Guardianship Order is an Order appointing a person to be a child’s special guardian. This means that whilst the Order is in force a special guardian has parental responsibility for the child and subject to any other Order, the special guardian can exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility except from other special guardians. Unlike an Adoption Order, a Special Guardianship Order does not remove parental responsibility from the child’s parents, although if there is a conflict between the parents and the special guardian, the special guardian’s opinion would prevail.

There are some limits on the special guardian’s parental responsibility so that while a Special Guardianship Order is in force, no person may change a child’s surname or remove him or her from the UK without the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility or without leave from the Court. However, the special guardian can remove the child from the jurisdiction for a period up to 3 months.

Who may apply for a Special Guardianship Order?

A special guardian must be over 18 years old and cannot be the parent of the child. Those who may make an Application to the Court without leave are as follows:-

  1. Any guardian of the child.
  2. Any individual in whose favour a Residence Order is in force with respect to the child.
  3. Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least 3 years (which need not be continuous, but must not have begun more than 5 years before, or ended more than 3 months before, the making of the Application).
  4. If there is a Residence Order in force, any person who has the consent of each person in whose favour the Residence Order is made.
  5. Any person where the child is in the care of the Local Authority who has the consent of that Authority.
  6. Any person (if there is no Residence Order or Care Order in force) who has the consent of each person who has parental responsibility for the child.
  7. A relative with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the Application.

Any other person may apply for a Special Guardianship Order but will have to obtain leave of the Court before he/she can do so.

If you would like further information about Special Guardianship, including how to make an Application and whether or not it would be the best route to take in your particular case, please contact one of our Family team for further advice.