How to end a special guardianship order

A special guardianship order (SGO) is where a child or children are placed under the primary and long-term care of someone who isn’t one of their biological parents. This might typically be grandparents, aunties, uncles or other members of the family, but it can also be anyone over the age of 18 who is a close family friend, a foster carer or someone whom the child or children has lived with for the last three out of five years.

Why might a Special Guardianship Order be granted?

Special guardianship does not remove parental responsibilities from the parents of the child or children, but it does offer the child a secure placement until the age of 18 and means the special guardian(s) have day-to-day control, both of which are positive for the child in question. The parents will still need to be consulted when larger, more important decisions come into play around the child, such as moving abroad, moving to adopted care or name changes.

The reasons why a Special Guardianship Order might be ordered by the courts:

  • The child is suspected or proven to be suffering from neglect.
  • The child is suspected or proven to be suffering from abuse.
  • There is evidence to suggest family dysfunction.
  • The child or a parent suffers from a disability that affects care.
  • The parents are absent.

SGOs are not granted without thought for the child, and takes into consideration their emotional and educational needs, mental health, any physical requirements they have, any risk of suffering and the feelings and wishes of the child (for a full list of considerations see section 1 (three) of the children act 1989).

How to end a Special Guardianship Order?

If you have previously entered into a Special Guardianship Order, found that circumstances have changed, and you wish to petition to end this order before the child turns 18 (when it automatically expires) – this is a possibility. Alterations to the order or potential termination of the order can be agreed upon, but the decision will be made by the court.

Evidence would need to be supplied to prove that the circumstances under which the order was implemented are no longer relevant, and the court would also need to consider what sort of impact a change would have on the child. So, in short, it is possible, but evidence will need to be supplied.

In order to go about ending a Special Guardianship Order, you would need to apply to the court under section 13D (1) of the Children’s Act 1989. It might be an easier process overall to apply to the court where the SGO was originally served, but if that’s not possible then your local family court will suffice. The court will give you the forms you need to apply to end the SGO.

Becoming a Special Guardian

You may be looking into starting the process of becoming a Special Guardian yourself, in which case we wanted to provide some information on how it works, what requirements are needed and what support you receive if you are legally granted this role.

How does it work being someone’s Special Guardian?

You may have been asked, or put yourself forward, if you believe you can offer the child in question an improvement in their current situation, one which is safe, secure and nurturing. If successful, you would have overall parental responsibility for that child, but the birth parents do still have the right to be involved. As previously mentioned, any big decisions, such as taking the child abroad for a length of time or moving, changing names or changing religion would require permission from the child’s birth parents, but day-to-day decisions are the responsibility of the guardian.

How to apply to become a Special Guardian

You will need to undergo an assessment if you make an application to be a Special Guardian, which includes informing child services three months before applying to the court. Child services will then investigate to ensure that the child would be in the best hands living with a Special Guardian, assessing aspects like whether the needs of the child can be met, what the life of the child might be like and any family and environmental factors. A report will then be written for the court to determine whether an SGO is suitable.

What support do you receive being a Special Guardian?

Depending on the situation in which the SGO was granted will determine what support is available to a guardian. Examples of some of the potential support services available include:

  • Financial assistance
  • Access to support groups and therapy services
  • Assistance with mediation
  • Counselling
  • Training

It’s also worth noting that the birth parents of the child are still responsible financially and are likely to be required to pay maintenance to the Special Guardian.

Support services for Special Guardians is available through Family Action.

If you wish to speak directly to one of our solicitors about a Special Guardianship Order, you can schedule an appointment through our contact page