Q&As

A child’s mother has died and their adult sister is caring for them. The child's father is not named on the birth certificate and does not have parental responsibility. Would it be more appropriate to apply for guardianship or special guardianship, so that the sister may obtain parental responsibility? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and is there any real difference?

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Produced in partnership with Katherine Illsley of 4 King’s Bench Walk
Published on LexisPSL on 21/05/2018

The following Family Q&A produced in partnership with Katherine Illsley of 4 King’s Bench Walk provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • A child’s mother has died and their adult sister is caring for them. The child's father is not named on the birth certificate and does not have parental responsibility. Would it be more appropriate to apply for guardianship or special guardianship, so that the sister may obtain parental responsibility? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and is there any real difference?

A child’s mother has died and their adult sister is caring for them. The child's father is not named on the birth certificate and does not have parental responsibility. Would it be more appropriate to apply for guardianship or special guardianship, so that the sister may obtain parental responsibility? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and is there any real difference?

The court may appoint an individual to become a child’s guardian in one of three circumstances including if the child has no parent with parental responsibility for them (eg where the child's unmarried mother has died and the father does not have parental responsibility) or no special guardian (section 5 of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989)). A person who is a child’s guardian pursuant to ChA 1989, s 5 acquires parental responsibility for the child. Parental responsibility is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority that, by law, a parent has in relation to their child and their child's property. Any appointment of a guardian may be brought to an end at any time by order of the court on the application of any person with parental responsibility, or on the application of the child concerned or on the court’s own motion if the court considers that the guardianship should be brought to an end.

A special guardianship order

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