Who is a Special Guardian?
A special guardian is a person who can take care of a child. But he/she won't be the child's birth parent. It is a law that came into effect as part of the Children Act 1989. The Special Guardianship Order has a close connection with the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
There is no specific restriction on the number of special guardians a child can have. One or more people associated with the child can request a joint claim. The court can permit it after evaluating this in the best interests of the child.
The birth parents cannot regain guardianship over their child unless they receive permission from the court concerned. However, the parents will continue to have a legal relationship with their child. The court will only give special guardianship to someone if they can facilitate security.
As part of the Special Guardianship Order, the guardian will have to look after the child until he/she turns 18. It is the responsibility of the guardian to make decisions for the child.
If you are the guardian, you will have to make the appropriate decisions related to their education and health care. Under these circumstances, you don't have to consult the child's birth parents. However, when you are making a few other decisions, you have to seek permission from those who have Parental Responsibility for the child.
If you are changing the child's surname
If you plan to move abroad with the child for a time duration that exceeds three months
If you plan to place the child for adoption
If the child has to undergo surgeries that are beyond the scope of their health
If you and the people with a Parental Responsibility Order cannot make the correct decision, the court can make the judgment prioritising the child's best interests.
Who can apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
When it comes to applying for a Special Guardianship Order, anyone above the age of 18 can approach the court. However, if you are the child's birth parent, you cannot proceed with the application. You can also move a joint claim over a child in court with another person. It is permissible to provide a Special Guardianship Order for more than one person. Here are some of the conditions as per the UK government for applying for a Special Guardianship Order.
Anyone who is the child's legal guardian, relative, or foster parent
Local Council can facilitate agreement when the child lives in a care
Someone with a Child Arrangement Order and with whom the child has stayed for more than three to five years
A person with an agreement from someone who has a Child Arrangement Order for the child
A person who receives permission from someone with a child's Parental Responsibility
If you don't comply with these criteria, you can apply directly to the court for a Special Guardianship Order. You will have to fill out Form C2 and Form FMI as you move forward with the application. The court will make a final decision based on the Local Authority's report. The court will also consider the child's best interests when providing a person with a Special Guardianship Order.
How to file the application for a Special Guardianship Order?
Before you make an application in court, you can seek help from your family mediator. If you fail to reach a decision, you can apply for a Special Guardianship Order. You will have to pay a prescribed fee. However, you can request financial help from the court if your income is low.
You will have to submit a written document that elaborates your plan to move forward with a Special Guardianship Order to the court. You will have to do the same with those people who have a Child Arrangement Order or Parental Responsibility Order for the child. You will have to complete these procedures three months before you make the application.
When you apply for a Special Guardianship Order at your local court, you will have to submit a few forms. They include:
Form C1 is the application for the Special Guardianship Order.
Form C13 contains all the supporting statements for the application.
Form FM1 is for gathering the Family Mediation Information.
You can also fill out Form C8 if you prefer to keep all details discrete.
Once you complete your application, you will have to make copies of all these Forms. You will have to share it with everyone who will be affected because of the Special Guardianship Order.
The process may be different if the child has been living with you for a long period or if the parents of the child have given the child tp be cared by you and you can evidence the same.
What happens after applying for a Special Guardianship Order?
Once you have completed your application and submitted it to the family court, you will receive a few details within ten days. The court will furnish you with a case number, a timetable containing the dates, and the court's way of dealing with it. It is commonly known as the First Direction Hearing.
Akin to the application, you will have to share copies of these documents with those who have a Parental Responsibility Order and the child's Cafcass guardian. Apart from that, you will have to provide these pieces of information to a few other people. They include:
The authorities of the Registered Children's Home where the child resides
Local Council's Children's Services Department
The people with whom the child has stayed for more than three years
Other people who have an involvement with the child
Once this is complete, your case will have a final hearing. Based on evidence and after evaluating the best interests of the child, the court will decide. The court will also request witnesses at times.
What is the effect of a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order has a significant role to play in a child's life. It is because this will focus on the creation of a long-term placement for the child. A person with a Special Guardianship Order will have to fulfil all the duties that would be part of the Parental Responsibility Order.
It becomes your responsibility to remain connected with the child's birth parents. Apart from that, you will have to provide care for the child as per the order.
You will be responsible for the child's security, safety, and care. As a special guardian, you have to make all the day to day decisions for the child unless the court decides to take away the right from you. For instance, you can take the child to a foreign country for three months without seeking permission from others having Parental Responsibility. However, if you decide to extend your stay, it is pertinent that you obtain their consent.
You will also have the right to look into the educational and health care needs of the child. However, under certain circumstances, you will have to contact the child's birth parents.
What are the things that a Local Authority will consider?
A Local Authority will conduct an assessment once you request a Special Guardianship Order. If the child stays with another Authority, you will have to contact them while the Local Authority prepares the report. The child, birth parents, and special guardians can request such a detailed study.
The report prepared by the Local Authority will look into several factors. They include:
Information on the child's siblings, birth parents, and relatives
There will be an analysis of the child's relationship with their parents and other family members.
The report will contain the wishes of both the birth parents and the child. It will assist in creating a decision by looking into the child's best interests.
The Local Authority will assess the guardian's family background and living conditions.
The report will also consider the guardian's parental capacity.
There will be a detailed study on the benefits that the child might receive. If the court decides to move him/her to Special Guardianship, this assessment becomes helpful. Their primary focus will be on the long term effects of the decision.
The Local Authority will evaluate the medical conditions of the child, birth parents, and special guardians.
The Local Authority will also consider any previous assessments conducted.
Once the Local Authority forms the decision, they will inform the people concerned. If you are one of them, you will have 28 days to respond.
What happens after the Local Authority's assessment?
Once the Local Authority completes their assessment, it becomes clear if the person concerned requires any form of support. It will also provide details of the type of assistance the person will receive.
There are different forms of help that you can obtain. However, it will highly depend on the Local
Authority's observation. They will only facilitate those support services that they find beneficial for the child. Some of them are:
Financial assistance for the special guardian would be in the form of cash to take care of the child's needs. It would be to meet the expenses for entertainment, travel, etc.
The Authorities can offer services like respite care, the facility to participate in a support group for the child, etc.
They will provide counselling, advice, and other therapeutic assistance for the child.
When you evaluate the details of the support system, it is best to have legal assistance. It will help you a lot while you make the final agreement. You can always contact us for guidance.
What financial support is available, and when can you gain it?
A Special Guardian can avail the facility of financial support after completing the Local Authority's assessment. It will be their decision whether to provide you with such aid. You can find more information on the same from the Special Guardianship Regulation of 2005, updated in 2016.
As per the Sixth Regulation, Local Authorities have the right to provide financial support. Before facilitating it, they will consider the amount given as part of the foster allowance. In most cases, it will be the same. However, there will be some reductions in the form of tax credits and child benefits.
When you are applying for financial support for a child, you will have to fulfil some criteria. They include:
If the child has some form of disability- physical or psychological
If you are applying for a Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangement Order, Parental Responsibility Order, or Prohibited Steps order (You can reach out to us when you move any of these orders for assistance)
If you need financial help in providing accommodation and taking care of the child
When you fulfil these conditions, there is a higher chance of receiving financial assistance from the Local Authority.
How will the Local Authority offer you financial assistance?
You have to complete the required assessment. Then, the Local Authority can determine if you are eligible for financial assistance.
These are the two main factors that the Local Authority will look into while offering you financial aid.
Authorities will examine your financial position and your ability to provide for the child.
They will evaluate the child's requirements and needs.
Based on these factors, the Local Authority will provide you with financial assistance.
What are the alternatives to the Special Guardianship Order?
Apart from the Special Guardianship Order, there are three other alternative ways to take care of a child. They include long-term fostering, Child Arrangement Order, and adoption. However, these alternatives may or may not be applicable in each case, as there are criteria to make applications for each of the said options.
With adoption, you will receive permanent rights over the child. The birth parents will no longer have any legal obligations over the child. They will not have Parental Responsibility as well.
A Child Arrangement Order will form a decision on the child's living condition. It will focus on where the child has to live. By doing this, you will receive Parental Responsibility for the child.
If you wish to take care of a child without Parental Responsibility, you can opt for long-term foster care. Here, you will offer the child a place to live that is safe and secure.
Please do note that this article and the contents of this website should not be taken as legal advice. This article is NOT legal advice and is just an article to discuss some of the relevant parts of the question on hand.