Special guardianship order
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A special guardianship order is a court order that says a child will live permanently with someone (who is not their parent) until they are 18.
A special guardianship order gives the special guardian ‘exclusive’ parental responsibility for the child. This gives them the authority to take all major decisions about the child’s upbringing and care.
The following adults can apply for a special guardianship order:
- A relative who has lived with the child for at least the last year.
- Anyone who has lived with the child for at least three of the last five years. This does not have to have been continuous.
- Anyone who has a child arrangements order which says that the child lives with that person.
- A foster carer who has lived with the child for at least the last year.
- Anyone who has the consent of the parents.
- If the child is in care, anyone who has the consent of children’s services.
A special guardianship order does not remove parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents, and the special guardian should consult them in relation to important decisions about the child. Although the special guardian has final say in respect of most decisions.
There are some things a special guardian cannot do without the parents’ permission, however. They cannot:
- Change the child’s surname.
- Take the child abroad for more than three months.
- Agree to the child being placed for adoption.
Parents cannot apply to end (or ‘discharge’) a special guardianship order without the permission of the court. They would only get this permission if they could show that there had been a significant change of circumstances since the special guardianship order was made. They would also have to show that it is in the child’s best interests for the order to be discharged.
Unlike adoption, the child remains legally a member of their birth family under a special guardianship order, and so it is often considered the most suitable order for arrangements where a child moves to live permanently with a family member or friend.