Special Guardianship

Special Guardianship is a Court Order that places a child to live with one or more adults who become the child’s Special Guardian, with legal and parental responsibly. Special Guardianship is intended for children who can no longer live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement; it is quite common for children who have been removed from the care of their parents by a local authority to be placed with relatives under a Special Guardianship Order.

“Special Guardians have overriding parental responsibility for the child which means that they can make most decisions for the child, even if the parents do not agree. There are many reasons why such an arrangement may be considered and we know that there are often many questions; we have considerable experience in helping to explain what this means and how it works.”
Cheryl James, Solicitor

Who can apply for Special Guardianship Orders?

At Nash & Co we have specialist solicitors who can assist you in applying for a Special Guardianship Order and we will also advise you aspects of funding through Legal Aid. While applications are not allowed by the parent of the child in question, there are many adults who are eligible to apply as an individual or as a couple, including guardians of the child or those having a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence Order for the child. You can also apply if the child has lived with you for at least three out of five years, or as a local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application. Anyone with the consent of the local authority, if the child is in care, can also apply as can anyone who has permission of the Court to make the application.

What else do I need to know?

If you wish to apply for a Special Guardianship Order you must notify the local authority of your intention and Social Services will then undertake an assessment to see whether you are suitable to be Special Guardians and whether a Special Guardianship Order is in the best interests of the child. Social Services will prepare a report which will be sent to the Court.

How can I find out more?

Special Guardianship is often seen as a “halfway house” between a Child Arrangements Order and adoption, but there are many areas to consider; they do not make a child legally a member of his or her new family or end the legal relationships with the birth family, but they are often sufficient in the circumstances to meet the child’s needs.

Contact Cheryl James who will be able to help answer your questions and assist, no matter what stage you are at. Cheryl’s email address is [email protected] or you can call her on 01752 827019.

Frequently Asked Questions
Do you offer a free half hour initial appointment?

No, we do not offer a free half hour initial appointment as we have found that this type of appointment rarely gives clients real help or assistance. In half an hour, we would only be able to take from you the bare outline details and there would be no time to give you anything but the most basic advice, which would not cover the specific details of your case. We believe that to be able to take your information fully and to be able to give you advice that will actually help you, we need a lot longer than half an hour! Firms that offer a free half hour appointment are using it to ‘hook’ new clients and a second appointment, at full price, will almost certainly have to be booked before you can give full information and receive any sort of detailed advice.  We understand that you do not want to be limited to half an hour when seeking expert legal advice and therefore we offer a reduced price initial appointment for £125 plus VAT.  This appointment will take around an hour or so and after the meeting, we will send you a detailed attendance note, confirming the information provided by you and our advice, setting out your options, the necessary steps and cost estimates.  We want to offer the very best service to all our clients, and we strongly believe that a free half hour appointment does not allow us to do that. We want you to leave your initial meeting feeling that you have been able to fully explain the issues and having received clear and detailed advice about your legal situation and the options available to you.

Do you offer fixed fees?

We understand that knowing what your costs are going to be is very important.  We offer fixed fees for divorce / civil partnership dissolution. We can also agree a fixed fee for the preparation of a Separation Agreement, Financial Consent Order or Pre-Marital Agreement once we know what the issues to be covered are. With other matters, such as financial negotiations arising from relationship breakdown or disputes about children, it is not possible to agree a fixed fee, as it is rarely sufficiently clear from the outset what all the issues will be. We do however break your likely costs down into stages, telling you how much each individual stage is likely to cost before you embark on that stage if possible.  We will send you regular bills and update cost estimates where appropriate to ensure that you have the best information available to help you understand and budget for your costs.

Can I get Legal Aid?

There have been significant changes to the availability of legal aid for family matters, however it can still be available when dealing with some aspect of family law, if you can prove your status as a victim of domestic violence or if Social Services have concerns about the safety of your children.

In order to prove your eligibility, there are a number of standard letters provided by the Legal Aid Agency which can assist you. Please click the link below to see what evidence will be accepted by the Legal Aid Agency. You cannot apply for legal aid without an ‘evidence letter’ if you are seeking assistance with divorce or children matters. Should you be seeking legal aid in relation to protection from domestic violence an ‘evidence letter’ will not be necessary.

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/legal-aid-cases-of-domestic-violence-and-child-abuse-letters-for-professionals

As well as the above evidence, you will need to be assessed as financially eligible for legal aid. Please use the online eligibility calculator to give you an indication as to whether you may be financially eligible. This will assist you in knowing whether legal aid may be an option.

http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/

Once you have obtained one of the standard ‘evidence letters’ from a professional, and have checked your financial eligibility, please give us a call to discuss making an appointment.

Do I have to go to Mediation?

If intending to issue an application to Court for an Order relating to children or an Order relating to matrimonial finances there is an expectation that you will have attempted mediation before your application can be issued at Court. There are limited exceptions where attendance at mediation is not necessary, however in most cases it will be necessary to attend at least a first mediation meeting, known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

How long does a divorce take?

As a rule of thumb a divorce can take between 4 and 6 months from the date that the petition is lodged with the Court but it very much depends upon the complexity of the issues and how much co-operation there is between the parties.

We do work towards bringing about a conclusion as soon as possible for our clients as we recognise that it is an incredibly difficult time for them. However, each case will turn on its individual facts and it is difficult to know how long a divorce will take before the particular circumstances of the case are known.  We recommend that anyone considering divorce makes an appointment with one of our specialist solicitors to come to the office to discuss matters where a time estimate can then be provided.

Will I have to sell my home?

It is not always the position that family home will have to be sold following separation but this will depend upon the financial circumstances of the parties.

It is very uncommon for both parties to remain living in the same property following separation and so, it would seem fairly inevitable that one of the parties will have to move from the property but this does not necessarily mean that the property will have to be sold.

In cases involving children, as long as it is financially possible, every effort is made to ensure that children do remain in their home to provide stability and security for them at what is, for the whole family, a very difficult time.

We recommend that anyone concerned about what would happen to their property following separation makes an appointment to come in and meet with one of our specialist solicitors for further detailed advice.

Do I have parental responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his/her property.

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility. Fathers can obtain parental responsibility by satisfying one of the below:-

  • jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003)
  • getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • getting a parental responsibility order from a court
  • married to the child’s mother (this does not give step-parents parental responsibility)
Will I have to go to court?

For a straight forward, undefended divorce you will not need to attend Court.

Where you cannot reach an agreement and you have to issue an application to Court, for example to resolve the concequent financial issues arising out of your divorce or in relation to a dispute regarding children, then Court attendance will be necessary.