Legal help for kinship carers

Getting legal advice as a kinship carer is an important step in your journey. Find out more about getting a solicitor, legal aid and other sources of help.

If you are a family member or friend raising a child on behalf of their birth parents, getting legal advice is sensible, so you know what your rights are.

You have different options when it comes to formalising your care arrangement for a child. A legal order can 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.

Why get legal advice?

The nature of the care arrangement you have in place for the child you’re caring for will affect your and the child’s rights, as well as the financial support you may qualify for.

If you are deemed a foster carer, you may be able to claim foster care allowances.

If you have a legal order in place, you may qualify for financial support from your local council’s children’s services department.

All options have advantages and disadvantages, which is why it’s a good idea to get legal advice early in your kinship care journey. You should also talk to children’s services who can talk to you about your options.

Find a lawyer in England in Wales using our Lawyers List

Legal aid for prospective special guardians

Legal aid can help to pay for legal advice.

Family and friend’s carers applying for a special guardianship order (SGO) in private law proceedings may be entitled to legal aid. Private law proceedings are court cases between family members that do not involve the local authority’s children’s services department.

Applications for legal aid are means and merits tested.

  • Means test: assesses your financial eligibility
  • Merits test: assesses the likelihood of success, the reasonableness of costs and the benefits the case will have for you and the child

Find a legal aid solicitor to check if you are entitled to legal aid. After doing a search, tick ‘Children’ and ‘Family – legal aid’ to refine the results.

Other sources of support

If you cannot get legal aid, there are a number of organisations that can offer you support with accessing legal advice.

  • Advocate is a charity which connects you with volunteer barristers for legal advice.
  • Coram Children’s Legal Centre runs a helpline for legal advice and has family law advice resources available online.
  • Family Rights Group gives free and confidential advice to families who are dealing with local authority children’s services.
  • Grandparents Legal Centre provides specialist legal advice for grandparents. They will provide free initial legal advice over the telephone. IMPORTANT: Please mention you have been signposted by our charity Kinship.
  • The Law Society has a Find a solicitor service that helps you find a solicitor in your area who’s accredited in family law.
  • NYAS is a charity that offers legal advice and representation to represents children, young people and vulnerable adults.
  • Personal Support Unit is a free, volunteer-led service that supports people who are facing court without legal representation.