Special Guardianship (SGO)
A SGO provides an option for legal permanence for children who cannot grow up with their birth parents as their main carers. A SGO can be a particularly attractive option where the birth parents are still involved to some extent in the life of the children because unlike Adoption a SGO does not sever all legal ties with the birth parents, and unlike a Child Arrangements Order it gives the holder more of a say in the children’s upbringing.
If you are granted a SGO it will result in you having certain rights in relation to the children named in the order. Those rights include:
Parental responsibility – this is defined in law as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and administration of his or her property. A SGO does not remove Parental Responsibility from anyone who already has it, however the ability of anyone else to exercise it is extremely limited once an SGO is granted.
The right to take the children abroad for a period of up to 3 months. No one other than the Special Guardian can remove the children from the Country without the written consent of every other person who holds parental responsibility for the child or the permission from the Court.
The right to make decisions which affect the children without needing the consent of any other person who holds parental responsibility for the child such as decisions about religion, medical treatment, school selection and other matters related to day to day care. There are still some decisions that will require the consent of anyone with parental responsibility for example changes to a child's surname, granting permission for the child to marry if between the age of 16 and 18, the placing of the child for adoption, consent to a child being sterilised, granting parental responsibility to somebody else.
In summary a Special Guardian will have clear responsibility for all day-to day decisions about caring for the children, and for making important decisions about their upbringing. Although anyone, such as birth parents, will retain their legal parental responsibility if they already have it, the Special Guardian only has to consult with them about decisions relating to the children in exceptional circumstances.
Whether a Special Guardianship Order is appropriate will depend upon the individual needs of the children in question and whether such an Order would be in the children’s best interests.