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Family Justice Council guidance on special guardianships

Interim Guidance approved by the President of the Family Division

23 May 2019
Family Justice Council guidance on special guardianships

The Family Justice Council has produced interim guidance on special guardianships, which has been approved by the President of the Family Division. The primary aim of the guidance is to address cases where an extension is needed to the 26-week time limit for public law cases, so that potential special guardians can be fully assessed.

While acknowledging that in most cases good practice will ensure that prospective special guardians are identified early and assessed within statutory timescales, it is recognised that there will still be some cases where potential carers are identified late in the proceedings or situations where further time is required for specific reasons to assess their relationship with the child. In such circumstances, if the application has a sound basis, the guidance states that an extension beyond 26 weeks should be permitted if it is 'necessary to enable the court to resolve the proceedings justly'.

Some examples are given of when there may be a justification for an extension beyond the 26 weeks, including where an assessment is needed of carers living in another country. It is also noted that there may be other circumstances where more time is needed to assess the quality of the relationship between the child and the proposed carer.

In producing the guidance, the Council is said to have worked closely with the President's Public Law Working Group, chaired by Mr Justice Keehan, to review the research evidence on special guardianship. The guidance has been produced to assist practitioners to help start the process of change, with further, more comprehensive guidance on public law expected later in the year.

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