If you are currently involved in proceedings before the Family Court of Australia, you may have already had or are about to have an Independent Children’s Lawyer (referred to as “ICL”) appointed.

Then, it is likely you are wondering what the role of an ICL is and how that may impact on your family law proceedings…

Why the Court appoints an ICL

The Court can appoint an ICL under Section 68L of the Family Law Act 1975. An ICL is usually appointed by the Court upon application by one of the parties where one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  • There are allegations of abuse or neglect in relation to the children;
  • There is a high level of conflict and dispute between the parents;
  • There are allegations made as to the views of the children and the children are of a mature age to express their views;
  • There are allegations of family violence;
  • Serious mental health issues exist in relation to one or both parents or children; and/or
  • There are difficult and complex issues involved in the matter.

The role of the ICL

The best interests of the child will ordinarily be served by the ICL enabling the child to be involved in decision-making about the proceedings. However, this does not mean that the child is the decision maker.

ICL’s are obliged to consider the views of the child but ultimately provide their own independent perspective about what arrangements or decisions are in the child’s best interests.

The primary roles of an ICL are:

  • Acting as an honest broker between the child and the parents and facilitating settlement negotiations where appropriate;
  • Facilitating the participation of the child in the proceedings in a manner which reflects the age and maturity of the child and the nature of the case; and
  • Arranging for necessary evidence including expert evidence to be obtained and put before the Court.

Generally, the ICL will meet with the child unless:

  • The child is under school age;
  • There are exceptional circumstances for example where there is an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse allegations and in the particular circumstances there is risk of systems abuse to the child; or
  • There are significant practical limitations for example geographical remoteness.

If you have any further questions regarding the appointment of an ICL or would like advice or representation in your family law matter, please contact our office.

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