Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) are used in the Australian Family Law Courts (“the Courts”) for difficult, complex and sensitive cases which involves allegations of family violence, child abuse, neglect, or where there are high levels of conflict between parents. It is for these types of circumstances which Legal Aid Commissions across Australia assign an ICL to the matter when requested to do by the Courts. It is the ICL’s role to ensure that the child’s best interest remains paramount and they must act impartially in doing so. These specialist legal practitioners are required to act in and only in the child’s best interests, whilst ensuring those involved are able to reach an agreement where the child’s best interests are met.
An ICL’s role is to assist the court in determining the arrangements which are in the best interest of the child. ICL’s will read affidavits, issue subpoenas, examine any subpoenaed documents, speak with the child (depending on their age and particular circumstances of the case) and often speak to the family consultant and other relevant people such as teachers, doctors, psychologists. They encourage and take part in negotiations between the parties to come to an agreement which is in the child’s best interest. ICL’s views and opinions must be strictly impartial and based on supported admissible evidence, not their own personal opinions and thoughts.
When it is appropriate, an ICL may speak to your child directly. It is important that you do not attempt to guide your children into saying things before meeting with an ICL and allow the ICL to act as the children’s lawyer, including allowing them confidence and privacy in their communications. From the ICL’s findings and evidence based information, they will make recommendations to the Courts as to what they believe is in the children’s best interest. The Judge or Registrar involved in your case will take the ICL’s recommendation into consideration before they make a decision.
If you are unsure whether an ICL would be beneficial to your matter or if one has been appointed and you would like advice regarding your parenting matter, please contact our experienced family lawyers at Nevett Ford Lawyers on (03) 9614 7111.