What is an Independent children’s lawyer (“ICL”)? What is their role? Why exactly does my child need one? This article aims to shed some light on common questions such as these, which arise when an ICL is appointed.
What Is An ICL?
As your child cannot legally represent their interests, an independent children’s lawyer is appointed to do so on their behalf. The primary purpose of the ICL is to represent the child’s best interests with a focus on decisions regarding parenting arrangements.
It is important to note that an ICL must remain independent in their role. Accordingly, they will usually not communicate directly with either parent. If you wish to contact an ICL directly, you will have to do so through your lawyer.
When Is An ICL Appointed?
- Difficult or complex issues are involved.
- Allegations of family violence or neglect of the children have been made
- Where separating siblings is an issue
- There are serious health issues concerning one or both parents or the children.
- Significant cultural or religious differences which impact the child
- Where one parent is seeking to move elsewhere with the child (including overseas), and this move would be detrimental to the child continuing to have a meaningful relationship with the other parent
- Allegations have been made regarding a child’s views and that child is of a mature age to convey those views.
- The parents are unable to come to an arrangement themselves due to high levels of conflict.
What Is the role of An ICL?
The primary role of an independent children’s lawyer is to objectively consider the views of the child and then decide what parenting arrangements would be in their best interests.
- Organise evidence to be put before the court
- Enable the child’s involvement in the proceedings relative to the child’s age, maturity levels and the circumstances of the cases.
- Assume an agent role between the parents and the child and facilitate settlement negotiations whenever appropriate circumstances arise.
How An ICL Determines the Best Interests of a Child
In determining the best interests of the child, an independent children’s lawyer will consider evidence such as:
- Oral evidence or testimony from the child, counsellors, teachers and principals
- Psychological and medical reports of the child and parents
- Evidence given by any witnesses
- Documents from the police, schools and the Department of Family and Community Services
- Family consultant family reports – This is where the court will appoint a family consultant to prepare a report. The report’s goal is to aid the judge in making decisions regarding the child’s arrangements by providing an unbiased evaluation of the issues of the case. As this report is court-ordered, it will come at no cost to both parties.
Can You Object To An ICL?
According to the Family Law Rules, the court may discharge the Independent Children’s Lawyer upon application in the following situations:
- They act in a way that is not in the best interests of the child
- They display any bias towards one parent or have a conflict of interest
- They are not acting properly
In these situations, the guidelines recommend that the Independent Children’s Lawyer apply for a court order to discharge their appointment. The ICL should also, from time to time, consider whether their duty is still necessary or beneficial to the child. For example, if the ICL’s relationship with the child were to break down, it would be likely hard for them to represent the child’s best interests.
In some situations, an ICL may be acting in a way contrary to their role, and they will refuse to take the proper steps necessary to terminate their appointment. You should seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer on the best course of action to take in this situation.
Things To Note Regarding ICL’s
- Who pays the independent children’s lawyer? – Legal aid is responsible for arranging and paying the ICL . However, in most cases, the parents will still need to contribute to the costs.
- You must ensure that your child attends all of their appointments with the ICL.
- Your child’s appointments with the ICL is required to remain confidential, so do not question your child regarding their discussions.
- Your child is allowed to contact the ICL at whatever time they please.
- As a parent, learning about the appointment of an independent children’s lawyer can seem scary, especially if you don’t understand their role in your case. You should not have anything to worry about as long as you are honest in your dealings with them.
- It would be best if you treated the ICL with respect at all times.
- It would be best if you always took their feedback on board to adequately prepare yourself for the proceedings and any further concerns they may have.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
It is important to note when dealing with an independent children’s lawyer to remember that they are there to represent your child’s best interests in an unbiased way. If you have any further questions regarding ICL’s or believe they are not acting correctly, don’t hesitate to contact our firm.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way. With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
If you have any more questions about the role of an ICL or any other family law matters, head over to our blog section for more informative articles on a wide range of family law topics.
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