What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?
First published August 20, 2020 and updated November 30th 2021
An independent children’s lawyer is a suitably qualified lawyer who has been appointed by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the court) to represent your child in any future court hearings. An independent children’s lawyer, commonly referred to as an (ICL) must have completed a National Training Program and be registered on an appropriate state panel for this position.
Independent children’s lawyers are legal advocates tasked with safeguarding children’s interests if parenting disputes about custody agreements or access issues occur during divorce proceedings. Section 68L of the Family Law Act 1975 provides the Court with the power to appoint an ICL lawyer.
What is The Role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer
The role of an independent children’s lawyer is to provide a voice for the child/children in proceedings and assist the court in making decisions for parenting arrangements in the child’s best interests. Whilst an independent children’s lawyer is obliged to consider the views of a child; they are to provide their own independent opinion and recommendations to the court as to what arrangements and decisions are in the child’s best interests.
Below is a list of some of the circumstances where the court makes appoint an ICL:
- There are allegations of abuse or neglect.
- There are allegations of family violence.
- There is a high level of parental conflict.
- One party is asserting that the children have expressed strong views concerning parenting arrangements.
- One of the parents is not the natural parent of the child/children.
- A person other than the parents are under the care and control of the children.
- One of the parents has antisocial behaviour.
- A parent has unusual sexual tendencies.
- A parent with a personality disorder or significant mental illness.
How And When Is an ICL Appointed?
ICL lawyers are called on to assist with family court cases in Australia. The court may involve them as legal counsel for their clients who face custody battles and other issues related to divorce proceedings like child support payments, property division, access rights, etcetera.
The appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer for parental responsibility can be a matter at the court’s discretion. However, when there are serious concerns about the best interest or welfare related to any child involved with either parent, they may apply through family law proceedings seeking orders appointing them as children’s lawyers authorised by the court.
How Do ICL’s Act in The Best Interests of The Child?
Your child deserves the opportunity to establish a healthy relationship with their ICL. The child’s lawyer should be aware that each child has varying emotional, cognitive and intellectual levels and an awareness of the child’s family dynamics.
In addition, they must also consider sibling relationships or any other family structures or cultural backgrounds the child may have. The ICL lawyer will also need to know how much attention is required for the child at their development stage.
How to React to The Appointment of an ICL?
As a parent, learning of this appointment can seem scary. You might be wondering what they are going to do and why an independent children’s lawyer needs to be appointed in the first place! Rest assured that as long as you’re honest with them about your child’s situation.
It’s important to understand that the ICL does what they think is best for their clients, even if it doesn’t always match everyone else. Sometimes this means making tough decisions, but in every case, an individual should feel confident that the children have the proper support they need at this time in their lives.
Respond to Requests in Resonable Timely Manner
If you plan to act on behalf of yourself in court proceedings, be sure to immediately provide all requested information. Not understanding what is being asked from you can delay or hinder the progress. If this is the case, then it’s best to contact your lawyer and clarify the request before complying without question.
You probably won’t hear from the ICL lawyer directly. When it comes to family law, your lawyer is in charge of communicating with them and giving you what’s requested. You will need to make sure you have all your documents up to date so your lawyer can take care of all the legal matters for you.
What if I Object With an ICL Request?
It’s not uncommon for situations where one party disagrees with the views of an ICL. You should take some time to try and understand their position, as the ICL will examine your case without bias and provide advice based on the evidence you’ve provided them in order for both parties involved to come out ahead during these tough negotiations.
Despite the independent children’s lawyer recommendations, you may still want to increase time with your child. The ICL can help by providing some advice on handling any conflicts between parents or other children. Proactively addressing these issues before they escalate into something big will always be better than waiting until after an argument has occurred where both parties are upset- don’t risk angering either party over anything at all!
If you have had an ICL appointed in your matter and would like to understand their role, or if you would like more information about parenting arrangements, please contact one of our team members on 03 9070 9839 or email@example.com
We hope this article has answered some questions for you regarding the roles played by ICLs in family law matters- however, if you still have unanswered questions please, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Sage Family Lawyers!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth hiring an ICL on my own or should I just wait until the court appearance date?
You cannot hire an ICL on your own. An ICL can only be appointed by the court. You will need to speak with your lawyer about the process of appointing an ICL lawyer.
Should every parent consider the use of a children's lawyer?
Though the Courts have discretion in deciding whether an ICL is required, they can only do so if it’s requested by a family member or person close to the child who believes that an ICL should be appointed.
What are parents legally required to provide to the ICL?
Each case will be treated on an individual basis. You will need to provide any information the ICL requires. The ICL may wish to speak with the child but if the child does not wish to speak to the ICL the ICL can make his recommendations without contact with the child.
Can a child give the ICL instructions?
The ICL is not the child’s legal representative and does not take instructions from the child. Section 68LA of the Family Law Act states that the ICL is not a legal representative for children and does not take instructions from them.