A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a Court Order appointing someone other than a child's parent to be there "special guardian". The appointment gives the special guardian parental rights for the child which takes precedence over the rights of the child's parents, effectively placing them in the driving seat for decisions about the child's upbringing.
Legal Status:- Once an SGO has been made, the child's parents cannot apply to discharge it without permission of the Court. It therefore offers a special guardian more protection than if the child was living with them under an informal arrangment or even a Child Arrangement Order from the Court.
Unlike an Adoption Order however, an SGO does not distinguish the legal relationship between the child and their parents. The parents will continue to have parental responsibility, however the special guardian will have the determining vote for decisions.
Major decisions will still require consent of the parents or the Court. For example, a special guardian must have consent to take the child abroad for more than three months or to change the child's name.
Who would it be suitable for?:- A special guardian must be over 18 and can apply on their own or jointly with another. In many cases, a special guardian will be a relative of the child, for example their grandparent or older sibling, however this isn't a requirement. The law sets out criteria for potential special guardians to be considered.
As with all decisions made by the Court in relation to children, the paramount question will be whether the Order is on the child's best interests.
Special Guardianship Orders are becoming more common. If you would like further information please contact Zoe Gaitskell or Benitia Knowles-Wright of our Family Team on 01404 548050.