Should you apply for a court order?

Important decisions about a child (such as medical treatment, going on a school trip, going abroad etc.) can only made by someone who has parental responsibility for the child. Under a private arrangement you normally do not have parental responsibility. This means you would have to ask the people who do have parental responsibility (typically the parents) if they agree to what you are planning to do (e.g. taking the child abroad for a holiday).

You may want to make these decisions yourself if the child is going to stay with you for a long time. In this case you may want to apply for a legal order which would give you Parental Responsibility.

There are two main options: a Special Guardianship Order or a Residence Order. Both orders give you parental responsibility (i.e. the right to make decisions) However, there are some differences between a Residence Order and a Special Guardianship Order in terms of the decisions you can make.

The best legal order for you and the child will depend very much on your situation.

  • A Residence Order might be the best order if you get on well with the parents (or others with Parental Responsibility). This is because you may have to speak to them about important decisions, and you would have to ask them if you want to take the child on a holiday abroad for longer than four weeks.
  • If you don’t get on with the parents (or others with Parental Responsibility) and you are wanting to bring up the child until they become an adult a Special Guardianship Order might be right. Because this order allows you to take decisions without speaking to the parents (or others with Parental Responsibility), and you can take the child abroad for up to three months without asking them.

To find out more about these orders look here or call Family Rights Group Advice Service.