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LEGAL EAGLE: I’ve cared for my daughter’s son, now she wants him back

My daughter couldn’t cope with her son when he was born so I applied for a special guardianship order.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:00 am

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She now wants him back and is threatening to take me to court. To make things worse social services are now concerned for my grandson’s welfare. They have said they are going to apply for an interim care order. Can they do this? What does this mean for me? Can my special guardianship order be taken away?

The fact that your grandson is the subject of a special guardianship order (SGO) does not prevent the local authority issuing care proceedings. It also does not prevent a parent applying for a child arrangement order (CAO) for residence, subject to the court’s permission.

This permission is required because an SGO is intended to be a permanent order. An SGO provides a more permanent legal status as a non-parent than you would have if you were named in a child arrangement order for residence.

An SGO will continue until your grandson is 18 unless discharged sooner.

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The making of a care order (CO), interim or otherwise, does not discharge an SGO automatically - an application must be made.

The list of those who can apply to discharge includes a local authority with a CO for the child.

Your daughter would need permission of the court before she could make an application to discharge the SGO. The court would grant permission only if your daughter could demonstrate a significant change in the circumstances since the SGO was made.

At the moment you and your daughter have parental responsibility for your grandson.

As a result of the SGO you benefit from enhanced parental responsibility which means you have the final say on decisions regarding him. An interim care order (ICO) usually gives the same powers as a final order.

For an ICO the local authority gains parental responsibility within the constraints of using it for the limited time period of an ICO.

On the making of the ICO it is the local authority who will now hold the enhanced parental responsibility and will have the final say on decisions.

They are also able to decide the extent to which you may exercise your parental responsibility in relation to your grandson.

If your grandson was moved from your care the local authority must allow reasonable contact between the two of you.