Grandparents and Special Guardianship Orders
As the number of Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) go up, more and more people are taking on the responsibility of raising a child on behalf of another family member. Often, it is grandparents that step in to breach the gap, but typically, outside of this their rights are restricted.
Grandparents Caring For Grandchildren Since 1990sGrandparents Plus
, a charity who champions the role of grandparents in children's lives, recently published a report that claims grandparents have been contributing towards the upbringing of their grandchildren since the late 1990s, but sadly, public policy has left them behind. When it comes to the rights of grandparents in relation to their grandchildren, they are invisible.
Despite this, more family members, especially grandparents, are being granted SGOs
to secure a home for vulnerable children in their families. An SGO is an order made by the court making one or more individuals a child's 'special guardian'
. It is intended for those children who can no longer live with the birth parents and would benefit from a more legally secure form of care.
For those grandparents without an SGO, it's an uphill battle. In some instances, relationships may be strained between birth parents and grandparents making it impossible for them to see their grandchildren. Although there are no concrete legal rights, there are circumstances where an application or special permission can be gained for a grandparent to have contact with their grandchildren using a Child Arrangement Order
Taking on a Grandchild
As many families would agree, it can be a daunting decision to make to take on a grandchild. But, most grandparents would rather take that responsibility than let them be adopted out of the family.
An SGO not only gives you the support you need in contrast to an informal arrangement, it affords a lot more security for the child. It can provide them with a stable home until they are 18. In essence, an SGO will give you parental responsibility which can be exercised to the exclusion of anyone else with parental responsibility apart from another special guardian. For example, if the parent wants to make a certain decision you don’t agree with, your decision overrules theirs
Getting the Most Out Of an SGO
Grandparents typically don’t have any rights. Although they make major contributions to the upbringing of the grandchildren in society, this neither brings privileges or financial benefits unless something like an SGO is in place. It can be hard to take on a child within your family without additional financial help and a SGO can help to provide this.
Along with financial assistance, the local authority must make arrangements to support you as a special guardian by providing:
- Respite care
- Information about other support services
- Therapeutic services for the child
As a grandparent, you shouldn't feel like you're out in the cold if you are taking on the care of a grandchild full time or you're being prevented from seeing them. It's important that if you do want to pursue an SGO, you get the right support to perform your duties as well as provide a secure loving environment for a child who might have ended up in care. If you don't have an SGO, there are still provisions that can be made by your solicitor. Jenine Abdo, our Family Law Solicitor
can help you to secure an SGO as well as sign post you to local services that may be able to give you additional support.