A Guide to Independent Children’s Lawyers
What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?
Occasionally, in complex parenting proceedings a judge may order that an independent children’s lawyer (ICL) be appointed. Parties are also entitled to request that an ICL be appointed, provided they can prove to the court that it is necessary. According to the Family Law Act 1975, an independent children’s lawyer is a legal practitioner with specific training and experience surrounding complicated family matters and their role is to represent the children’s best interests. They effectively act as a third party to the proceedings, entirely separate from opposing parents or family members. The ICL’s role in any parenting matter is solely to advocate for the best interests of a child or children who are subject to the proceedings.
Why would an ICL be appointed?
It is typically only extremely difficult, high conflict parenting cases that warrant the assistance of an ICL. Circumstances where allegations of abuse, neglect or family violence are present is one such example. Where one or both parents or one or more of the children suffers from mental health issues, an ICL would also be required. If the child is of a mature age and able to express clear views that differ significantly from that of a parent, an ICL may be appointed to represent their best interests. Additionally, in cases where none of the above circumstances apply, but the parties’ argued cases are vastly opposing, it may be necessary for an ICL to assist.
Does an ICL represent the child?
No. The ICL represents the children’s best interests. Whilst the wishes of children the subject of parenting proceedings may align with what the ICL deems to be in their best interests, this is not always the case. It is within the scope of the ICL’s duty however to ensure that the court is made completely aware of what the children’s views are, if the children have expressed any.
How does an ICL determine what is in the children’s best interests?
There is typically a process through which the ICL will collect relevant information about the children and family circumstances. There are several means by which they can do this:
- Requesting a family report, prepared by a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker
- Requesting information from the child’s teachers, guidance counsellor, medical or other professionals with whom they are in regular contact.
- Obtaining any relevant expert evidence or information from authorities.
- Talking directly with the children.
Who pays for the ICL’s services?
The ICL’s costs will generally be funded by the respective State or Territory’s Legal Aid Commission, however there are specific circumstances under which the parties may be obliged to pay costs.
How Love Family Lawyers can help:
Love Family Lawyers understand that if you’re a party to a matter where an independent children’s lawyer has been appointed, you’ve likely found yourself in an incredibly delicate and sensitive situation. Our professional family law solicitors have the appropriate training to respectfully work to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family with compassion. Contact us today. We’re here to help.