Special Guardianship Orders

Special Guardianship Orders

A Special Guardianship Order or Residence Order is a legal way for someone with whom the child has a relationship, other than a birth parent, to provide that child or young person with a secure, loving family when their own parent cannot.

Girl and friend

Special Guardianship Orders

If a child needs to live permanently away from their parents and the carer would like to make major decisions on behalf of the child, similar to those with an adoption order, but everyone agrees that links with their birth parents should continue, then a Special Guardianship Order can be applied for. This will restrict the birth parents rights but will not permanently end the relationship.

This could be because:

  • The child could be at risk of going into care and a friend or relative wants to care for the child
  • The child may have been in care and their foster parents, relative or friend wants to care for the child
  • Parents may have died and there is a prior agreement with the birth parents that the relative or friend takes over the child’s care
  • Some minority ethnic communities have religious and cultural difficulties with adoption
  • Older children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children may need secure permanent homes but still have strong attachments to their families
Group of children

 You can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if:

  • you are over 18 and not the parent of the child
  • you are the guardian of the child
  • you are a local authority foster carer and the child has lived with you for at least one year preceding the application
  • you hold a Residence Order for the child (or has consent from all of those who would benefit from a residence order is in place)
  • the child has lived with you for three out of the last five years, if you have the approval of the local authority, where the child is in the local authorities care
  • you have consent from all who have parental responsibility for the child
  • you are a relative of the child and they have lived with you for at least the last year
  • you have the leave of the court

What this means

Painty hands

As a Special Guardian you will have parental responsibility for the child until they are 18 unless discharged earlier by the court. You will be able to make all day to day decisions and caring for the child and their upbringing.

There are a few exceptions:

  • Where the law requires the consent of more than one person with parental responsibility e.g. sterilisation
  • Agreement to adopt
  • Taking the child out of the country for more than 3 months without the courts permission
  • Changing the child’s name without the courts permission
  • A basic legal link will remain with the parents who will still legally be their parents.

Unlike adoption orders, Special Guardianship orders can be varied or discharged by the court and the court can step in where there are disputes over a Special Guardian exercising their parental responsibility.

We will provide you with support and services including financial support. You can claim child benefit or child tax credit if it is not being paid to the parent.

Residence Orders

A Residence Order is a court order which decides where and with whom a child should live.

Group of childrenThis could be because:

  • The child could be at risk of going into care and a friend or relative wants to care for the child
  • The child may have been in care and their foster parents, relative or friend wants to care for the child
  • Parents may have died and there is a prior agreement with the birth parents that the relative or friend takes over the child’s care

You can make an application for a Residence Order if:

  • you are a parent
  • you are a guardian
  • you are a step-parent (by marriage or civil partnership) who has treated the child as part of your family
  • you have the consent of all those with parental responsibility
  • you have the consent of the local authority, if the child is in care
  • you have the consent of those who already have a Residence Order for the child
  • you are a relative and the child has been living with you for one year, immediately before the application
  • the child has lived with you for at least 3 years
  • you are a local authority foster carer and the child has lived with you for at least 1 year immediately before the application

What this means

The Residence Order gives Parental Responsibility to that person for as long as the order is in place. This includes being responsible for the care and well being of the child and also being able to make important decisions for them including consent to medical or dental treatment and school trips.

Little girl

The child cannot be removed unless the Residence Order is revoked or the local authority obtains an Emergency Protection Order or Interim Care Order.

Parents or those with parental responsibility have a right to apply to revoke a Residence Order.

Parents who have parental responsibility will retain this responsibility. They should be able to have a say in major decisions about the upbringing of the child e.g. religion, which school a child attends and non-emergency medical treatment. They are entitled to attend school meetings and obtain school records e.g. school reports.