Special guardianship orders (SGOs) are private law orders. They are sometimes made in situations where a child lives with someone other than his or her parents. They are more significant than a residence order but are not as final or permanent as an adoption order.
The main features of a SGO are these:
If a SGO is made, it gives the Special Guardian PR for the child. It in fact gives the Special Guardian an enhanced form of PR. Where parents share PR, neither has an overriding say about issues relating to the childs upbringing. So, if they are unable to agree on choice of school, an overseas trip, or similar matters, the court would have to become involved to referee.
However, the enhanced PR that a Special Guardian has means that he or she is entitled to exercise PR to the exclusion of others. The Special Guardian may override decisions the childs parent or parents wish to make of a PR nature.
This enhanced PR is not without limits, however: a Special Guardian needs the written consent of everybody else with PR (or the courts permission) to:
A Special Guardian must be aged eighteen or older.
It is not possible for a parent to become Special Guardian to his or her own child.
Some individuals will be entitled to apply as of right for a SGO – for example, those in whose favour a residence order about the same child has been made. Anybody else who wishes to apply for a SGO will need the courts permission.
Also, whilst a SGO is a private law application, it still involves the local authority responsible for the area where the child lives. A person who intends to apply for a SGO must give the relevant local authority notice first (the notice period is at least three months).
The relevant local authority is required to investigate and prepare a report to the court dealing with a number of matters relevant to the SGO application.
The report must conclude with a recommendation as to whether or not the SGO sought should be made.
Every local authority is required to provide Special Guardianship support services within its area. These services include counselling, advice and information in relation to special guardianship.
Local authorities must provide the following specific help in special guardianship situations:
Last, Special Guardians may be entitled to financial support from the local authority, depending on their circumstances.