LEGAL EAGLE: The role of Special Guardian and the support you’ll receive

My five-year-old grandson has been in my care for two years.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:00 am
you will be able to make the final decisions about your grandson, such as what school he should go to.
you will be able to make the final decisions about your grandson, such as what school he should go to.

There are ongoing court proceedings in which I could be named as a Special Guardian. I am unsure what my role would be and the support I will receive?

The order which you are describing is called a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) and is made in the Family Court which will place your grandson in your care on a long-term basis.

The order means you will be given parental responsibility for your grandson in which you can exercise to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility.

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This means you will be able to make the final decisions about your grandson, such as what school he should go to, without the consent of your grandsons’ parents.

There are some circumstances in which you will need his parents’ consent, for example if you are planning on changing his surname. The SGO will be in place until your grandson turns 18.

His parents still have parental responsibility and will usually be allowed contact.

Contact arrangements can be made through the court or by yourselves and these should always be decided on the basis of what is in the child’s best interests.

The court can order contact between a child and their parents even if the Special Guardian does not think it is in the child’s best interests.

If this decision is made the Special Guardian must ensure contact takes place. However, if you are able to provide evidence that contact is causing distress and is affecting the child negatively, you can challenge this in court.

While the SGO is in place your grandsons’ parents can only apply to end the order if the court gives them permission. The court will only give permission when there has been a significant change in their circumstances from the time when the court granted the order.

Local Authorities are obliged to set up Special Guardianship support services in their area although this does not mean they have to provide support services to every child under an SGO.

These services can include counselling, advice information and financial support. Financial support can only be given when the local authority considers it to be beneficial to the child’s welfare.

The financial support is decided on individual circumstances and will be subject to means testing of your financial position and is the subject of annual reviews.