Q: My sister has suffered mental health problems since the COVID pandemic began. As a single mum she is finding it very hard to cope with her children aged seven and four. The children have not seen their father since he walked out three years ago. My sister needs help to get better but is terrified the children will be taken away if she asks for it. I could take care of them until she gets better, but I would need some financial help. Could I apply for temporary custody and get financial help to look after them?
A: Extended family members can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order (formerly called a Residence Order) or a Special Guardianship Order. This would formalise any arrangement of you having the children to live with you, albeit on a temporary basis, although Special Guardianship Orders are usually used for long-term arrangements. Such Orders would also give you Parental Responsibility for the children, so as well as providing a home for them and protecting and maintaining them you would be expected to make decisions about their social upbringing, education and medical treatment.
As far as a Special Guardian is concerned, you can request an assessment for support to be put in place which can include financial assistance depending on your circumstances. Special Guardianship Allowance is currently £17.90 per week. You would also receive the Child Benefit normally paid to your sister. Both amounts would be tax free.
To apply for a Special Guardianship Order, you need to inform Children’s Services in writing of your intention to apply three months before submitting an application to the court. This is so that they can investigate and prepare a report for the court to determine whether they consider you to be suitable for the role. A family solicitor will be able to advise you in depth and take you through the options and necessary steps.
This question has been answered by Alison Peters, a Partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.
Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry, please use the ‘Contact us’ form on the website or call Oswestry 01691 659194 or Wrexham 01978 291456. As a firm, you will appreciate that we are still extremely busy, and due to current circumstances work may be interrupted – however cases are still ongoing and will be prioritised by urgency and need. Stay safe and thank you for your support.