Ruth Hawkins, Founding Partner

Changes in Legal Aid in Special Guardianship cases

Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP

There has been a very welcome recent change in eligibility for Legal Aid for those involved in Special Guardianship Order (“SGO”) applications.

Legal Aid has been extended, so that from 1st May, all those with parental responsibility are entitled to non means tested (but still subject to a merit test) Legal Aid for any application being sought for their child for an SGO.

In addition, prospective special guardians are also able to apply for means and merit tested Legal Aid.

Previously both categories of applicants could only obtain Legal Aid in extremely limited circumstances – usually where they had proof of domestic abuse from the other party.

SGO’s are orders often sought in either private law or public law family proceedings, where a family member – for instance a grandparent –  or foster carer or possibly family friend – who is caring for a child, seeks an order formalising the arrangement. 

SGOs were brought into being in 2005.  They were designed to fit between what was then a Residence Order (now replaced by a Child Arrangements Order) and adoption, and they confer parental responsibility (“PR”) on the special guardians, which is shared with the parent or parents. However, the special guardians’ PR is enhanced, means that day to day decisions can be taken by the special guardians, and that they can override a parent’s decision in many aspects.

If you have any questions about an SGO, or about caring for a child that is not yours, please contact us for help in bringing this application.

Likewise if you are a parent of a child being cared for by a family member, who is considering bringing an application for an SGO, please contact us to look at your rights.

Please contact our team for further information.

Ruth HawkinsPartner

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Articles by Ruth Hawkins