Special Guardianship Orders

What is special guardianship?

A special guardianship order appoints one or more people as special guardians of a child.  The order lasts until the child is 18 (unless it is changed or cancelled before then).  The special guardian has parental responsibility for the child and can take most decisions about the child (such as where the child will live or go to school) without having to consult anyone else.  The special guardian cannot change the child’s surname or take them abroad for more than three months without the agreement of anyone else with parental responsibility or the permission of the court.

Why is it different from adoption?

When a child is adopted he or she becomes part of their ‘new’ adoptive family and all legal ties with their birth family are cut.  The natural parents lose their parental responsibility and the adoption order cannot, except in extremely rare situations, be varied (changed) or discharged (ended).  Adoption may not always be the most suitable solution for some children.  They may, perhaps because of their age or cultural background, not want to be adopted but would benefit from a permanent, legally secure placement with a long-term carer other than their parent.  Special Guardianship can meet these needs.  Unlike an adoption, children who are the subject of a special guardianship order keep ties with their birth family, although the family’s rights and responsibilities are reduced.

Who can apply to be a special guardian?

  • The child’s guardian (someone who has been appointed to look after the child when there is no parent or other person with parental responsibility);
  • A person who holds a residence order for the child;
  • A person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least 3 years;
  • In any case where a residence order is in force with respect to the child, any person who has the consent of each of the persons in whose favour the order was made;
  • In any case where the child is in the care of the Crown, any person who has the consent of the Crown;
  • Any person who has the consent of each of those who have parental responsibility for the child;
  • A foster carer with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • Any relative with whom the child has lived for a period of a least one year immediately preceding the application; or
  • Any person who has the permission of the court to make the application.

To make an application to become a special guardian you must be:

  • over the age of 18; and
  • you cannot be a parent of the child.

How can I apply?

To apply to become a special guardian you will need to complete either form C1 (if there are currently no proceedings concerning the child) or form C2 (if you are making the application in existing proceedings concerning the child or if you are asking for the court’s permission to make the application). You will also need to complete form C13A. There may be a fee payable.