The Ministry of Justice has recently announced a £6m package to support people in applying for a Special Guardianship Order which will see children being placed with family, friends and foster carers.
This means that people will have access to legal funding for advice and representation when applying to become a Special Guardian. This also means that birth parents are able to access legal funding if they wish to oppose any application for their child or children to be subject to a Special Guardianship Order. Previously, there needed to be Local Authority involvement for prospective applicants to obtain financial assistance.
What is a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a private law order. A Special Guardianship Order gives a person parental responsibility for a child. This order allows the guardian to make important decisions for the child at the exclusion of the birth parents (but not another special guardian). This order will last until the child reaches 18 years old, or if it is discharged by the court. A Special Guardianship Order is often looked at as an “in-between” for adoption or fostering a child.
Why does this negatively impact grandparents?
Whilst this £6m package is certainly a welcome step in this area of law, grandparents continue to be negatively affected in their pursuit to access legal funding. Grandparents are usually the first and most appropriate adult in a child’s life other than their birth parents. Grandparents are more likely to have an established relationship and loving bond with their grandchildren than any other adult other than their birth parents.
Unfortunately, grandparents are also more likely to have capital and equity, whether that is their home or savings. This does not necessarily mean that they can afford to pay for the process of obtaining an SGO for their grandchildren. Grandparents are more likely to fail on the means test for obtaining legal aid, meaning they will need to fund the process themselves, or contribute to their legal fees.
If you are looking for advice on applying for a Special Guardianship Order, our family law experts at Farleys can help. We can advise on the process and prospects of qualifying for funding. Get in touch today on 0845 287 0939, contact us by email, or use the online chat below.