An Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is appointed by the Court under s 68L of the Family Law Act 1975 or upon application of a party to represent and promote the best interests of a child in family law proceedings.
The appointment of an ICL is usually limited to complex parenting matters where there may be allegations of abuse, neglect, family violence, mental health issues or high levels of conflict and dispute between the parents. If both parties are self-represented, a Court may also consider it appropriate to appoint an ICL.
The role of the ICL is to consider the views of the child and their best interests in the litigation. This may involve arranging for necessary or expert evidence to put before the court which may include medical, psychiatric and psychological records of the child and/or parents and documents from organisations such as schools, welfare agencies or the Police. The ICL may also assist in the coordination of the family report from a family consultant or an expert report. The ICL will acts as an honest agent in the proceedings if aiding settlement negotiations.
It is important to note that despite the responsibility to consider the views of the child and their best interests, this does not mean that the child is the decision-maker through an ICL. The extent to which a child’s views are considered is weighed against their age, development level and needs, cognitive abilities and emotional state. ICL’s do not take instructions from children but may ensure the court is fully informed of the child’s view and make suggestions with reference to their views and best interests.
ICL’s cannot conduct disclosure interviews, become a witness in the proceeding or conduct therapy or counselling with the child.