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Special Guardianship Orders

A special guardian has parental responsibility for a child – all the day-to-day rights and legal responsibility of a parent in relation to their child. Special guardianship can be particularly useful for older children who may not be suitable for adoption but who could still benefit from a stable placement with a long-term carer.


Under a special guardianship order (SGO) parental responsibility may be exercised without having to seek the consent of the natural parent in all but a few instances. The special guardianship lasts until the child is 18 (unless the order is changed or discharged). The court would decide whether to grant a person special guardianship upon receiving an application.

Under what conditions is a Special Guardianship Order appropriate?

An SGO is flexible and could be effective in a variety of situations:

  • older children who don’t wish to be legally separated from their birth family (but who could benefit from greater security and permanence)
  • children in long-term foster care or those who are cared for on a permanent basis by their wider family
  • children who have cultural and religious difficulties with adoption

Applying to be a special guardian can be done either individually or jointly – or with several others. If two people apply, they don’t need to be married. Anyone can apply to the court for special guardianship if:

  • they are 18 or over and
  • they are the child’s guardian
  • they are a foster carer with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application.
  • they have a residence order or any person where a residence order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the residence order is made.
  • the child has lived with them for three of the last five years
  • they have the local authority’s consent if the child is in local authority care
  • they have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child
  • they have the court’s permission to apply

How does special guardianship differ from adoption?

Children under a special guardianship order can maintain contact with their birth family. Whereas, in adoption, it is expected children will become part of their new family and sever ties with their birth family. Under a SGO the natural parents are still legally the child’s parents but their parental responsibility is limited.

Contact AGF Law

If you have further questions regarding special guardianship orders or if you require legal advice about an SGO, please call 01204 377 600 and speak with AFG LAW’s expert family law team who can help. Alternatively, you can email us We are also accredited members of The Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation Scheme.

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