Applications, expectations and parental responsibility
Who can apply to be a Special Guardian?
Anyone over the age of 18 who is significant in the child’s life for example: Grandparents, aunt/uncle or brother/sister or a family friend. It cannot be the child’s parent. The foster carer can also apply for Special Guardianship if the child has lived with them for at least a year. If less than a year, the court may grant leave to the Foster carer to apply for the Special Guardianship Order (SGO). A joint application can be made by couples and they do not have to be married or in a civil partnership.
When making an application for a Special Guardianship Order consent is needed from the person with parental responsibility which may be:
- the parent
- a person with a Child Arrangement Order
- the Local Authority, when the child is ‘looked after’
- or each of those who have parental responsibility.
If consent is not given, the court can accept the application and grant a Special Guardianship Order, if deemed in the child’s best interest.
The Local Authority cannot make an application for a Special Guardianship Order but will support an application if it is seen to be in the child’s best interest.
Expectations of the Special Guardian
A Special Guardian is someone who legally commits to raising a child or young person until they reach 18 years old and who fulfils the responsibilities of a parent.
The Special Guardian is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions for the child and ensuring the child’s needs are met including taking them to school and to health appointments.
Upon the making of the Special Guardianship Order a Special Guardian acquires Parental Responsibility (PR), and is entitled to exercise PR to the exclusion of any other person holding it except another Special Guardian.
Parents retain some parental responsibility, but would only need to be consulted when major decisions had to be made. This is, of course, different from adoption where the birth parents lose parental responsibility entirely.
The Special Guardian cannot change the child’s surname or remove the child from the country for longer than three months without the written consent of all those with parental responsibility or an order of the court This can be made at the same time as the Special Guardianship Order and would apply if the child was going to live abroad with the Special Guardians.