What is a special guardian?

Posted by Laura Bennett on
Special Guardianship Orders were introduced as an alternative to adoption orders, so that children can be cared for by a person other than their birth parents without extinguishing the birth parents' legal relationship with the child. 

Once made, an Adoption Order severs the legal link between a child and their birth parents. By contrast, a Special Guardianship Order retains the link between a child and the birth parents, but provides a person who is acting as guardian of the child with parental responsibility, which they can exercise to the exclusion of any other person. For this reason, the phrase 'super-parental responsibility' has been used to describe the powers of a special guardian.

Where a child is looked after by a member of their wider family, such as a grandparent, then that person may wish to consider making an application for a Special Guardianship Order. The making of a Special Guardianship Order would enable a successful applicant to make decisions about the child's care, including the choice of school and any medical treatment without the need to consult the child's parents. It would also enable the Special Guardian to take the child abroad for a holiday, which could otherwise be problematic.

The following people (provided they are aged over 18) can apply for a Special Guardianship Order without needing the permission of the Court:  

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • Any individual named as the person with whom a child is to live in a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years;
  • Any person who has the consent of every person in whose favour a Residence Order was previously made;
  • Where a child is in the care of a local authority, any person who has the consent of that local authority;
  • Any person who has the consent of each person with parental responsibility for the child;
  • A foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of one year immediately preceding the application;
  • A relative with whom the child has lived for at least one year immediately preceding the application.


Other people are able to apply to become a special guardian, but they would require the permission of the Court to make the application.

Special Guardianship Orders last until a child turns 18 unless discharged earlier by the Court.

Blake Morgan can advise on the best solution to the needs of children's and their families during difficult times. Please contact a member of the Blake Morgan Family team for further information.

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Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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01865 258052

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