The last four years has seen almost a 50% increase in the use of Special Guardianship Orders.
Special Guardianship Orders, known as SGOs, were introduced under the Adoption and Children Act back in 2002. SGO’s are applications to the Court by grandparents seeking parental responsibility for their grandchildren.
The number of SGO applications is said to have increased by 47% since 2011 – from 1,313 in 2011 to 1,931 in 2014. There has also been a trend towards grandparents seeking legal advice to ensure regular contact with their grandchildren in the event of divorce or parental illness.
Grandparents are also seeking to intervene in specific circumstances where they feel that their grandchildren’s welfare is being ignored. Such circumstances which have initiated intervention are grandchildren being taken out of school to go on around the world trips or participating in an alternative lifestyle.
SGOs are not always favoured by some local authorities and, in some cases, they are failing to even mention grandparents as an option for guardianship. With this in mind, it is imperative that grandparents know that they may be able to acquire parental responsibility. Whilst SGOs are more commonly used when trying to assume the responsibility of the upbringing of a grandchild; it is also possible to apply for a Child Arrangement Order (CAOs).
There has been an influx in CAOs and Contact Orders by grandparents too, according to former Justice Minister, Simon Hughes. 2,517 applications were made to the Court in 2014 compared to 2,319 in 2011.
Leading family charity, National Family Mediation (NFM), has challenged the Government over not ensuring information is readily available for alternative methods of settling family disputes.
Every family situation is different and the information supplied by the Government should reflect this. It is advisable grandparents are aware of their rights and options when considering parental responsibility or applying for access – ensuring the grandchildren’s best interests are agreed on and met.
If you are a grandparent and are concerned about the welfare of your grandchild or you would like to consider applying for parental responsibility we can help. Contact us today for a free no obligation chat.