What is a special guardianship order?

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A special guardianship order (SGO) is a legal order appointing a carer – usually a relative – as the child’s ‘special guardian’ until they turn 18. They are often made when a child has been placed in the care of a close friend or family member due to their parents no longer being able to care for them. It is a more secure order than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court to do so, however it is less secure than an adoption order because it does not end the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth parents.

The ‘special guardian’ then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make major decisions about the child without having to consult them.

They can be a good option for children who can’t live with their parents, as it gives them a stable home and links to their birth family, but every case is different and there are many factors to consider.

Who can apply?

Any person over the age of 18 can apply for a SGO although they must fulfil criteria set in the Children Act 1989 to ensure that the placement is in the best interests of the child.

How to apply for a special guardianship order?

You will need to go through an assessment programme by the children’s services department of your local authority to ensure that a SGO is in the child’s best interests. They will investigate and prepare a report for the court.

You can make an application for an order here and supporting statement here

However, the laws surrounding SGOs are complex and we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice.

How can we support you?

Applying for a SGO is a big decision and it’s important to get the right information and support before deciding to apply.

Our experienced family lawyers offer clear, sound legal advice on SGOs and can talk you through the considerations you need to make before you decide if this is the correct order for you and the child.

We will help you to obtain a Special Guardianship assessment, draft the application to the Court and attend the Court Hearings that follow.

Your team in this field

Sarah Jane Lenihan
Sarah Jane Lenihan is a Senior Solicitor in the London Victoria office. Sarah Jane joined...
Senior Solicitor
Hannah Ross
Hannah Ross is a solicitor in the Leeds city centre office. Hannah joined Stowe Family Law...
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