What is a Special Guardianship (SGO)?

A Special Guardianship Order is an Order that allows a child’s relatives which can include grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings or family friends to take care of a child when their parents are unable to. The Order once made provides a higher level of parental responsibility for the special guardians which means that any decisions amounting to the child’s welfare such as education or medical needs, the special guardians can make those decisions legally above any other person with parental responsibility.

It is important to be aware however, that a Special Guardianship Order whilst it is envisaged as a permanent plan for a child until they attain 18 years old, does not remove the parental responsibility of any person who has it by way of being the mother with automatic parental responsibility or a father who acquired parental responsibility through marriage or by way of being named on the birth certificate at birth.

Prior to any order being made, a detailed report needs to be prepared by a Social Worker and a support plan provided setting out any areas of practical and financial support that will be made available by the local authority.

Amendment to Legal Aid and what this will mean for SGOs

Previously a prospective guardian wanting to make an application to Court for a special guardianship order would not be eligible for legal aid unless they could satisfy they had been a victim of domestic abuse from one of the child’s parents, meaning a lot of people could not access legal aid for these types of cases, where clearly, legal advice and representation is needed. Sometimes the Local Authority will suggest that you seek legal advice which they will agree to fund but this is limited advice and not always available as an option.

The scope of family legal aid has extended and now includes some funding for special guardianship applications.

These changes mean that those with parental responsibility responding to an SGO application and prospective guardians making an application for an SGO will be eligible for legal aid if they satisfy the financial eligibility assessment. This means that as long as you qualify on an income and capital basis, you will qualify. You no longer have to be a victim of domestic abuse from the other party or any other criteria that was previously in place.

We have a large children’s department that specialises in special guardianship cases. To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid as either a prospective guardian making an application or a responding parent, please contact our Boston team on 01205 311511 or email

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