An Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is someone who represents and promotes a child’s best interests throughout family law proceedings. An ICL is truly independent of the Court and enables a child to be involved in decision-making about parenting arrangements without influence from the parties. An ICL will consider the views of the child in conjunction with their own professional evaluation and will provide an objective assessment on the parenting arrangements which are in the child’s best interests.
How is an ICL appointed?
Under section 68L of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), the Court may order an ICL on its own initiative, on the application of a child, on the application of an organisation concerned with the welfare of the child, or on the application of any other person concerned with the child’s wellbeing.
What is the role of an ICL?
The ICL’s role is to be a best interests advocate for the child under section 68LA of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). This means they must work to form an independent view of what arrangements are in the best interests of the child. An ICL will establish a professional relationship and gather evidence, while considering the child’s opinions. While an ICL does not take instructions from a child, they are required to determine the child’s views and ensure the Court is fully informed.
An ICL may gather evidence and form an opinion by assessing material such as:
- time spent with the child;
- reports or meetings with teachers, counsellors, coaches etc;
- medical, psychiatric and psychological records of the child and/or parents;
- reports from the Police, or FACS;
- family reports; and/or
- witness and/or expert opinion.
The main objectives of an ICL include ensuring the child’s voice is heard, and their attitudes about the issues before the Court are supported by admissible evidence. An ICL will also facilitate and encourage negotiations between parents to settle the matter in the best interests of the child.
Cheney Suthers Partner, Alice Byrnes, is an ICL and is appointed to the NSW Legal Aid Panel. Please contact Alice or a member of the Cheney Suthers team if you require any further information regarding an ICL.