Special Guardianship Orders

Special Guardianship Order (SGO)
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced a new court order, Special Guardianship Order, intended to provide another option for legal permanence for children who cannot grow up with their birth families.

A Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian legal parental responsibility for the child which is expected to last until the child is 18. But, unlike Adoption Orders, these orders do not remove parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents, although their ability to exercise it is extremely limited.

There are some things that special guardians cannot do or decide without the permissions of the parents/others with parental responsibility or the court, such as:

  • They cannot change a child’s surname.
  • They cannot take the child abroad for more than 3 months.
  • They cannot agree to the child being placed for adoption.

In practice, this means that the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority, and the special guardian will have more clear responsibility for all day-to-day decisions about caring for the child or young person, and for taking important decisions about their upbringing, for example their education. And, importantly, although birth parents retain their legal parental responsibility, the special guardian only has to consult with them about these decisions in exceptional circumstances.

A Special Guardianship Order also means that contact can be maintained between the birth family and child, as long as this is in the child’s best interest. How this contact happens and how often it takes place is dependent on the individual case and can be decided by court.