Special guardianship orders

There are many circumstances which may lead to a special guardianship order being made. Many of these come as a result of an emotional and tumultuous time for the child in question. Stephensons’ children law solicitors have the best interests of the child at heart and are able to support and guide you through the process whilst keeping emotional strain to a minimum.

To speak to a member of our team about making an application for a special guardianship order or if an application is to be made in respect of your child, call us on 0203 816 0548 for a free, no obligation initial chat with one of our legal advisors.

In any case where adoption may not be appropriate, for example if the child has a good relationship with their birth parents, then a special guardianship order can be made. Special guardianship orders give a child or young person, who may not be best placed with their parents, stability by giving them a permanent home and giving legal status to the guardians who wish to care for them long term. A special guardianship order lasts until a child reaches the age of 18 (or an earlier court order).

loading staff

Parental responsibility

Full parental responsibility is given to the special guardian whilst allowing the birth parents to maintain contact with their child. The guardian will be responsible for making day-to-day decisions for the child along with more important decisions regarding their education and healthcare. The parents will retain their parental responsibility but the special guardian can exercise their parental responsibility to the exclusion of the parents. This means that where there is a conflict between the parents and the special guardian, the guardian’s decision will take precedence.

Special guardians cannot however overrule the birth parent’s refusal to consent to the adoption of the child. A special guardian must also obtain the written consent of every person with parental responsibility, or the leave of the court, to change the child’s surname or remove the child from the UK for a period of more than three months.

Special guardianship orders can be made at the conclusion of care proceedings or following the making of a private law application.

Special guardianship order - case study

Mr and Mrs Bryant (not their real names) had applied to the local authority to be granted care of their infant niece. The child had been removed from her birth parents after it was decided that they were unable to care for her due to significant learning difficulties.

The local authority had rejected Mr and Mrs Bryant’s application and the child remained in the care of the local authority. They did not believe they were able to challenge this decision, particularly as they were not entitled to means-tested legal funding and could not afford to pay for legal representation themselves. They also believed that the court was unlikely to side with them over the Local Authority.

The local authority planned for the child to be put up for adoption, while Mr and Mrs Bryant argued that the best interests of the child were to remain within the extended family where her birth parents could have at least some involvement in her upbringing.

A few days before the hearing, Mr and Mrs Bryant became eligible for legal funding. At very short notice, a specialist Stephensons child care solicitor represented Mr and Mrs Bryant in a five-day hearing, in which the judge ordered that the child be placed with her aunt and uncle under a special guardianship order.

This was a highly sensitive and difficult case where short time scales required efficient and experienced representation.


Who can apply for a special guardianship order?

Special guardians must be over the age of 18 and must not be a parent of the child. Often they are family members or the child’s current foster carers. The following individuals can apply to be special guardians:

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • A relative with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year before the application;
  • A foster parent – the child must have lived with the foster parent for at least one year before the application;
  • If the child is in care then anyone who has consent from the local authority can make an application;
  • Anyone named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • A person who has the consent of those who have current parental responsibility;
  • Anyone who has leave of the court;
  • An individual with whom the child has lived with for three of the last five years.

Notice of the application is to be given to the local authority who will write a report for the court to determine whether or not they believe the potential special guardian is suitable. The report will include information about the potential special guardian, the wishes of the child and the advantages of a special guardianship.

Local authority support services

Once a special guardianship order has been granted, the local authority is required to make certain arrangements in order to support the child and special guardian further such as:

  • Assisting with contact arrangements between the child and their parents where the local authority considers this beneficial;
  • Means-tested financial assistance;
  • Counselling, respite care and other support services.

Our solicitors have extensive experience in children law matters and are recognised in the Legal 500 and the Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession as leaders in the field of child care. To speak to member of our team call today on 0203 816 0548.


Child Proceedings Video Panel

  • Child Care Proceedings - Family Law 

    Mike Devlin and Jackie Price talk about our experience representing parents, children and other family members on issues relating to children. No matter how difficult or complicated the circumstances, Stephensons’ experienced child care lawyers are committed to securing the best possible outcome for you and your family.
    [youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI3EitjZneU"]

We're widely accredited for our work - family law

  • Chambers
  • Legal 500

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf. Over the years our family law team has been recognised by industry awards and accredited for their excellence.

Memberships & accreditations

9.1 out of 10
Trustpilot logo5-stars on trustpilot Based on count 428

We're Great

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, and you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf.

Our Trustpilot reviews

The level of service that was provided was excellent and one which was professional, understanding and the most important for me was empathy. I myself am a very organised individual and like things done on time without delay, Stephensons understood this and respected what was important to me and for children.
View from a family, children & divorce law client

Parental substance misuse - child care proceedings

Celebrities and drug scandals are in the news nearly every week. The latest celebrity to fall into the spotlight for this is Katie Price. Katie’s life has been well documented by the media and now a video has come to light of her on holiday...

Read more

Twitter block 1 tweet


Stephensons advises on AOK Events Group's acquisition of Melon

The commercial team at the national law firm Stephensons has advised the events management company, AOK Events Group on its recent acquisition of the event agency, Melon. Battersea based AOK Events Group was founded in 2000 and employs a total of 45...

Read more

Family reorder

  • Victoria Gethin
  • Mike Devlin
  • ​Karen Atkins
  • ​​Gwyneth John
  • ​Andrew Mountain
  • Amanda Rimmer​
  • Lauren Day
  • ​Tim Galbraith
  • Kath Geere​​
  • Jackie Price
  • Catherine Gaskell
  • Laura Simmons
  • Nicola Clayton
  • Charlotte Ellingham
  • Lauren Evans
  • ​Hanna Fayle​
  • Claire Pilling
  • Bethany Corday
  • Joanna Souter

We're always here for you

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.

Find your nearest Stephensons office and arrange a meeting

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.