If you are a grandparent or other family member raising a child who is not your own, you may wish to consider applying for a legal order to formalise the situation. A legal order will confirm that the child is to live with you and give you the right to be involved in making decisions about their care and upbringing.
Kinship carers often have one of the following legal orders ( Bear in mind these are the options in England and Wales – there is a different system in Scotland):
Other arrangements include:
You are strongly advised to seek legal advice before deciding what is best for you.
You can have a look at our Lawyers List for a solicitor in your area who specialises in childcare law. Many of the solicitors listed will provide a free initial interview.
If the child is placed with you by children’s services, then unless you agree at the time of placement that it is to be a private arrangement, you may be entitled to be assessed as a foster carer and receive a fostering allowance. This is a complicated area of law and practice is variable. You can contact our advice service for further guidance.
In some circumstances, financial support for the child you are bringing up may be available from the local authority if you obtain a legal order. It is usually best to talk to the local authority about what will be available before the order is made, as you may find it harder to access support later on – another reason why it’s a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Legal proceedings can be expensive. However, the local authority may be able to help you with the cost. You may be entitled to legal aid, although it is only available in specific circumstances and is usually means-tested. Click here for some information about legal aid.
Many Kinship Carers who have a legal order to look after a child worry about what will happen to the child in the event of their death. It is possible to make provision for who will take on the care of the child by putting it in writing. This is known as Testamentary Guardianship. You can find out more about it our fact sheet.
Macmillan are offering the chance to write your will for free. Find out more on their website.
Other sources of legal advice are listed here – it’s worth trying a few as there can be a wait before you’re able to access help:
Advocate is a charity which helps to find free legal assistance from volunteer barristers. Cases must be referred by advice agencies or solicitors. Grandparents Plus’ advice service can refer appropriate cases to Advocate.
Coram Children’s Legal Centre – Child Law Advice Service
Advice line: 0300 330 5480 Monday to Friday 8am-6pm
You can book a call through their callback service by visiting their website.
The website also has detailed information and advice on family and children law matters in England. It also has a section on court processes in private family law cases, and practical advice on representing yourself in court. The helpline is for advice on more complex matters and clarifying questions.
Family Rights Group
Advice line: 0808 801 0366 Monday to Friday 9.30am–3pm
FRG provides free confidential advice to families who are involved with local authority children’s services or need help from those services.
Grandparents Legal Centre
Telephone: 0843 289 7130
Specialist legal advice for grandparents, including local authority responsibilities and other issues affecting kinship carers.
The Law Society
Telephone: 020 7320 5650 Monday to Friday 9am–5pm
Use the Find a Solicitor database or phone the number above to find a solicitor in your area who is accredited in children law.
Charity offering specialist legal advice and assistance, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults. NYAS helpline advisers can support children, young people and and vulnerable adults across England and Wales to ensure their rights are upheld. They also welcome enquiries from representatives of children, including family and friends.
Personal Support Unit
PSU assistance is free and independent. Trained volunteers help people who are facing civil court proceedings without legal representation. PSUs are based in courts around the country and there is also a London-wide service.