Special Guardianship Orders – What You Need to Know


Special guardianship orders can help to keep families together and bring stability to a situation that may have been uncertain beforehand. It bestows on you, rights and powers, which you need to care for a child.

3rd General family in the park

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

They are often used by grandparents to give them rights whilst caring for a grandchild. If you need to care for a child that is close to you, you may want to get a special guardianship order.

A special guardianship order is made by a court, to give you the Parental Responsibility to enable you to make decisions on behalf of the child. It gives you a higher legal status than the parents which means if there is a conflict between yourself and the parents of the child, a special guardianship order will allow your opinions to take precedence. The order does not mean that the child has to live with you; they are often used in situations where grandparents or other carers need to jump in and out of a child's life depending on what is happening with the parents.

As a special guardian, you will have control over the child's day-to-day activities, such as going on school trips, or receiving medical attention. These are both examples of exercising your parental responsibility over the child to the exclusion of others that also have parental responsibility. There are some restrictions to special guardianship, such as not being able to change the child's surname or live abroad, in circumstances like this you will need to consult with the child's birth parents. This is a right still due to them, and you cannot override it just because you are a special guardian.

The unique thing about special guardianship is that it falls short of adoption, but is more secure than long term fostering. It affords stability for the child without the finality of adoption.

It is a happy medium between the 2 options.

There are a number of instances in which a special guardianship order is the most appropriate plan of action, if the child:

  • Is older and would struggle with adoption
  • Has a close relationship with their parents and the guardian
  • Is not able to get the same cultural sensitivity through adoption

Unlike a residence order, the special guardianship lasts until the child or young person reaches the age of 18, but it can be varied or discharged before then.

How is Special Guardianship Different to Adoption?

Unlike adoption, a special guardianship order does not take the parental responsibility away from their birth parents. This can help to maintain links between the child and their parents.

How is Special Guardianship Different to a Residence Order?

Residence orders, or child arrangements orders as we now know them, determine with whom a child should live. Special guardianship orders give the special guardian a higher level of parental responsibility.

Is There Financial Support?

There is financial support available for special guardians to help them provide the best care they can for the child they become responsible for. The local authority is responsible for ensuring you have the right support to carry out your role such as counselling, advice, information and if you need it money.

The method for assessing how much you get and the policy for giving it are open to external scrutiny. This means that if you believe you are not being afforded what you need to do your job you should seek legal advice. Being assessed correctly and receiving what is rightfully yours can significantly enhance the chances of the arrangement becoming successful.

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