As a grandparent, even if you have looked after your grandchild from a very early age, you do not automatically have parental responsibility and as such the decisions you make about your grandchild’s day to day life can be overridden by anybody with parental responsibility. You will want to ensure that you have the ability to protect your grandchildren from the poor judgements of their parents but unfortunately without being granted powers from the Court will be unable to do so. It is for this reason that an application for a Special Guardianship Order would in most circumstances be the first step towards legally protecting your grandchild’s long term welfare.
If you are granted a Special Guardianship Order this would mean that you had parental responsibility for your grandchild and could exercise this to the exclusion of anybody else who has parental responsibility essentially you would have the power to override your grandchild’s parent’s opinions without consultation.
The Special Guardianship Order gives you and your grandchild the best of both worlds. It allows flexibility for your grandchild’s parents to play a role in their life unlike with an adoption order which would necessitate a complete break in their relationship. The other alternative, is a Residence Order, this defines where your grandchild should live, but unless ordered otherwise you would still need to consult with your grandchild’s parents.
In practice, it is commonly the case that grandparents hope their children will find their way through difficult experiences which have prevented them parenting. A Special Guardianship Order is a way in which a door can remain open for “mum and/or dad” to be involved in your grandchild’s life if you feel it is appropriate. This contact may be provided for when the Special Guardianship Order is made otherwise it will be at your discretion.
If you are meeting your grandchild’s full time parenting needs, then certainly you should give consideration to making an application. There is online information and guidance however it is beneficial to meet with a legal professional who can advise you as to what the next steps should be in obtaining a Special Guardianship Order and whether this is the most suitable application for you.
One useful source of information recently published is the statutory guidance to the local authorities own Special Guardianship Regulations: