Special Guardianship Order

Special guardianship order
Legally reviewed by: Jonathan Pollard

When there’s a crisis in the family home, and it’s in the best interests of a child to be cared for by someone else, Cartwright King can support you where there is an application for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO). 

We can help parents, family members, foster carers or any guardian of a child with SGO applications, and help bring stability and security to the lives of children.

Call us now for immediate action.

Here When You Need Us Most

When you need us, we’ll be there, doing everything we can to help families where there is a family crisis or concerns about children’s safety. Cartwright King handles all cases involving children sensitively and without judgement. 

We will work alongside you, giving you clear, sensible and straightforward advice as we support you and represent you to deal with a Special Guardianship Order application.  We’re here to listen to your worries, advise you on the SGO process and above all, look out for the best interests of you and the children. 

What matters to us is making sure that whether you are applying for a SGO, or whether someone is applying in respect of the children, you are treated fairly, you understand what is happening and that your voice is heard.

Who We Can Help With a Special Guardianship Order

Whether you are looking to make an application for special guardianship, or whether you are a parent seeking to argue against a Special Guardianship Order being made, we can help.

Cartwright King has helped many people with connections to a child become Special Guardians, including:

  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Extended family members (including Aunts and Uncles)
  • Family friends
  • Foster carers

We can advise you on what to expect in terms of practical and financial support from your Local Authority and guide you through the process of becoming special guardians.

We help to diffuse and minimise any distress that could further affect a child or the family, bringing a calm, collected approach to matters. Our Children’s Law Solicitors have been helping families for years.

Cartwright King can help parents who find that their children may be placed away from their care under a Special Guardianship Order. If problems arise after a Special Guardianship Order is made, our experienced Children’s Law Solicitors can help – including giving advice on seeing your children if a SGO is made.

For legal representation that gives you complete peace of mind, call or email us now.

Get Started With a No Obligation Chat

Call us today and immediately speak to one of our Children’s Law specialists. There really is no substitute for talking to a specialist child care solicitor when deciding to make or oppose a Special Guardianship Order application.

Take the time to get to know us and get a sense of the Cartwright King culture and ethos. We want you to be completely at ease in choosing us to represent you.

Why Choose Cartwright King?

The wellbeing of children amid a family crisis requires immediate action.  You need Children’s Law Solicitors that know what they’re doing and able to act for you at a moment’s notice. Cartwright King delivers swift, incisive, sensible and reliable legal services to keep your case moving.

Legal Fees

Your legal fees will depend on the case itself, including the length of time your case takes and how complicated it is.

We can discuss affordable private paying fee arrangements. Fixed fees are also available.

We're here for you.

Frequently asked questions.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A SGO is a Court order that gives a carer – usually  a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle – special guardianship over a child until they turn 18. This means that they can talk to parents about decisions for the child, but the final say would be theirs if an agreement cannot be reached over something that should or should not happen.

It also means that there are extra steps that need to be taken if a parent would ask the Court to return a child to their care.

A Special Guardianship Order offers more security than a Residence Order for the carers, but doesn’t cut off all ties to the birth parents like an Adoption Order would.

Who can apply to be a Special Guardian?

If you are applying to be a Special Guardian you must be over 18 and can be any of the following:

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived with for a year immediately preceding the application;
  • Anyone who holds a residence order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a residence order is in force;
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived with for three out of the last five years;
  • Where the child is in the care of the Local Authority, any person who has the consent of the Local Authority;
  • Anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility;
  • Any person, including the child, who has the leave of the Court to apply.

The parents of a child cannot apply to become a Special Guardian.

How to apply for special guardianship?

Applications can be made by an individual or jointly by two or more people who do not need to be married. 

If you are independently making an application for an SGO (in other words it has not been recommended by the Local Authority or the Court), you must give three months written notice to the Local Authority of your intention to apply for an SGO on form C1 (or form C2 if you are asking for permission to make the application, or making the application in existing proceedings concerning the child) and form C13A, which you can get from the court or from the court website.

(There is an exception to this when someone has left of the Court to make a competing application for an SGO where an application for an adoption order has already been made – this prevents the SGO application from delaying the adoption order hearing). 

If there is already an order under the Children Act 1989 in respect of the child the SGO application should be made to the court that made the earlier order. In all other cases, the SGO application can be made in any Family Court but should be the nearest one to where the Child lives. 

A court fee is usually required for Special Guardianship applications. Details of court fees can be found on the court website. Your financial situation may mean you do not have to pay a court fee, for example, if you are in receipt of a particular means-tested benefit or you would suffer financial hardship if you pay the fee. If you are making your application to a Family Proceedings Court, the arrangements for helping with fees if you are on a particular means-tested benefit or would suffer financial hardship is different.

The Court may also make a Special Guardianship Order in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of the child should it see fit. This is even in circumstances where no application for an SGO has been made and/or an application for an Adoption Order has been made.

Upon receipt of the notice of an SGO application, or upon the Court’s request for an SGO, the Local Authority (or somebody instructed by the Local Authority) will investigate and prepare a report for the Court regarding your suitability to be Special Guardians.

The report is expected to be completed within three months but there is no duty for local authorities to comply with this timescale. 

The matters that are covered in the special guardian assessment report are outlined in Regulation 21 (Children Act 1989 Special Guardian regulations 2005) and Schedule and covers the following areas:  

  • Matters in regard to the child;
  • Matters in regard to the child or their family;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child and others;
  • Matters in relation to the applicants;
  • Details of the local authority completing the report including support services to be provided for the special guardian, the child or the birth parents;
  • Summary of medical information and assessment;
  • Summary of the implications of making an SGO for the relevant parties;
  • The relative merits of special guardianship and other orders;
  • Recommendation as to whether an SGO should be sought or alternative proposal;
  • Recommendation as to what the contact arrangements might be for the child.

The Court may not make an SGO unless it has received the report detailing the suitability of the applicants.

What other issues are considered by the Court?

Before making an SGO the Court will also look at whether to vary or discharge any other existing orders made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This could include things like contact orders or a residence order. The Court should also consider whether a contact order should be made at the same time as the SGO. This often assists with setting a framework for the Special Guardian to maintain contact between the child and their relatives. 

The Court may also give leave for the child to be known by a new surname and give permission for the child to be taken out of the country for longer than three months (if the Court does not grant leave then written consent of every person with parental responsibility must be obtained).

Varying or discharging the SGO

An SGO can be varied or discharged on the application of:

  • The Special Guardian;
  • The Local Authority in whose name a care order was in force with respect to the child before the SGO was made;
  • Anyone with a residence order in respect of the child before the SGO was made;
  • With leave of the Court (only if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the SGO was made):
  • The child’s parents or guardians
  • Any step-parent who has parental responsibility
  • Anyone who had parental responsibility immediately before the SGO was made;
  • The child (if the Court is satisfied that they have sufficient understanding).

If a question arises about welfare during any family proceedings then the Court may vary or discharge the SGO.

What support can I get after the SGO has been made?

The Local Authority is required to arrange support services for the Special Guardian. These are prescribed within the Regulations (Children Act 1989 Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 (1-3)) and include (but are not exclusive to) counselling, advice, therapy, respite care and financial support. 

The Local Authority will assess the need for support services and in doing so will take the following aspects into account:

  • The developmental needs of the child or young person;
  • The parenting capacity of the prospective special guardian or special guardian;
  • The family and environmental factors that shaped the life of the child or young person;
  • What the life of the child or young person might be like with the special (proposed) special guardian;
  • Any previous assessments undertaken in regard to the child or young person;
  • The needs of the special guardian (proposed special guardian);
  • The likely impact of an SGO where there are pre-existing relationships with the parent of the child or young person – for example when grandparents are proposed as special guardians.

What happens when the child leaves the care of the Special Guardian?

A child, subject to an SGO, who was looked after by the Local Authority immediately before the making of an SGO may qualify for advice and assistance under the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The child must be suitable for advice and assistance as detailed within Section 24 (1A) of the Children Act 1989.

What does the law say about Guardianship Orders?

Section 115 (1) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 makes provision for SGOs under Section 14 A-F  of the Children Act 1989. 

Schedule 3 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 contains some modifications.

The Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 set out provisions relating to support services. 

The paramount consideration for the Court when considering an application for an SGO is the welfare of the child and the Welfare Checklist in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 applies.

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