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Special guardianship orders: make in haste but repent at leisure?

Date:10 NOV 2019
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Leslie Samuels QC, Pump Court Chambers

There has been much written recently about Special Guardianship Orders (‘SGOs’); whether they are made too frequently or too early, whether they are ‘high risk’, whether special guardians are sufficiently involved in the court process and whether they are properly supported by local authorities. Drawing on the case law and research material now available the conclusions reached are:

(1) Without question, there is a place for such an order in the judicial armoury.
(2) There is no convincing evidence that SGOs carry any greater risk than the making of any other family law order.
(3) Where errors have been made in the past, they are likely to lie in the attempt to truncate the assessment process.
(4) Placements have no doubt been made, in the past, ‘in haste’ and without a proper opportunity for the relationship between the child and proposed special guardian to be developed and assessed. In this context, a new form of order would be very welcome.
(5) Enabling the proposed special guardian to participate fully in the proceedings is critical. 
(6) The proper assessment for and provision of support services to the special guardian is often critical to secure the viability of the placement. 

The full article will be published in the January issue of Family Law

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