Children are valued and cherished members of our society. They are vulnerable and need special care and protection, especially during Family Law proceedings. In a court dispute their voices may be heard through the Independent Children’s Lawyer.
ICL role is to assist the court in coming to a decision regarding the best interests of the child.
Appointed by the Court, the role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer is to investigate a child’s situation and to advocate for what is in the child’s best interests. They are independent of both parties and their function is to act solely in the best interests of the child.
When is an ICL appointed?
Acting in the best interests of the child ought to be the paramount consideration for everyone involved in Family Law proceedings. The optimal way this is achieved is by parents working together to make parenting arrangements that are in the best interests of their children. However this doesn’t always happen. People can get drawn into a dispute with their ex-partner and may lose sight of the needs of the children.
This is where an ICL comes in. With the best interests of the child as their paramount concern, an ICL is supposed to provide an objective and unbiased view. This objectivity can often be vital in cases where the parents are unable to agree on what is best for their children.
Below are some of the grounds upon which an Independent Children’s Lawyer may be appointed by the court:
• Reports of abuse or neglect
• High levels of parental conflict
• Claims made by a child
• Allegations of family violence
• One or both of the parents, and/or the child has serious mental health issues
• Other difficult and complex issues
What is the role of the ICL?
The ICL’s role and duties are set out section 68LA of the Family Law Act 1975.
Essentially their role is to assist the court in coming to a decision regarding the best interests of the child by:
- Providing an independent view to the court of what is in a child’s best interests by looking at the available evidence, including affidavits, subpoenaed documents, talking to the child (depending on their age and the circumstances of the case), teachers, doctors, psychologists or counsellors and presenting this evidence to the court
- Acting in what they believe to be the best interests of the child during the proceedings and make sure the court is aware of any views expressed by the child
- Asking the parties, the child, or any other person who may be significant to the proceedings to meet with experts for assessments, family report writers, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
- Doing their best to minimise any potential trauma to the child as a result of the proceedings and make sure their interests are protected until the case is finalised.
- Encouraging and taking part in any negotiations to settle the matter
- Obtaining reports or information from various people or institutions that concern the child, the parents or other significant people in the proceedings including doctors, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, or daycare centres. The ICL can use subpoenas to obtain this information if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
See below some of the most frequently asked questions that will help you understand what an ICL does and how they can help you and your child.
What do you need to do when an ICL has been appointed?
Follow through with all appointments your child has with the ICL. Let your child communicate freely with the ICL without questioning them about what goes on in their sessions. Bear in mind that all cases are different and the ICL may not consider it necessary or appropriate to meet with the child directly.
What about the views of the child?
The ICL may not always agree with your child’s views, but it is their job to present any views to the court. The court will consider these views, but how much weight they give them will depend on the child’s age, maturity, ability and willingness to express their views.
Who pays for the ICL?
If the Court does not appoint an ICL and you want one to be appointed, you will need to let the Court know why it is important for you that an ICL is appointed. You may also have to contribute money towards the costs of having an ICL in your case.
If one or more of the grounds outlined above apply in your case, we recommend you discuss the appointment of an ICL with your lawyer.
This article is written to provide valuable insights on family law and the role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer. It has been written for information purposes only and is not meant as legal advice nor should it be relied upon as such.
Everybody’s lives and circumstances are different. So if you have any questions about your own Family Law case please contact Arbon Legal Group for advice tailored to your situation.
Our expert family lawyers can provide you with the answers and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your future.
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