Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL) are appointed by the
Family Court to represent the child's interests. The ICL is not
your child's legal representative, and they are not bound by
children's instructions. They are however permitted to meet
with children and play a key role in ensuring children's views
are heard by the court if it is appropriate to do so.
When will an ICL be appointed?
The appointment of an ICL in family law proceedings is at the
discretion of the Court. In Re K (1994) FLC 92-461, the Full Court
of the Family Court of Australia identified the sorts of cases in
which an Independent Children's Lawyer ought to be appointed.
These cases are as follows:
Cases involving allegations of child abuse, whether physical,
sexual or psychological.
Cases where there is an apparently intractable conflict between
Cases where the child is apparently alienated from one or both
Where there are real issues of cultural or religious difference
affecting the child.
Where the sexual preferences of either or both of the parents
or some other person having significant contact with the child are
likely to impinge upon the child's welfare.
Where the conduct of either or both of the parents or some
other person having significant contact with the child is alleged
to be anti-social to the extent that it seriously impinges on the
Where there are issues of significant medical, psychiatric or
psychological illness or personality disorder in relation to either
party or a child or other persons having significant contact with
Any case in which, on the material filed by the parents,
neither seems a suitable custodian.
Any case in which a child of mature years is expressing strong
views, the giving of effect to which would involve changing a long
standing custodial arrangement or a complete denial of access to
Where one of the parties proposes that the child will either be
permanently removed from the jurisdiction or permanently removed to
such a place within the jurisdiction as to greatly restrict or for
all practicable purposes exclude the other party from the
possibility of access to the child.
Cases where it is proposed to separate siblings.
Parenting cases where none of the parties are legally
Applications in the Court's welfare jurisdiction relating
in particular to the medical treatment of children where the
child's interests are not adequately represented by one of the
Role of the ICL
The ICL must form an independent view, on the evidence, of what
is in the best interests of the child, and act in the proceedings
on this basis. If satisfied that a certain course of action is in
the best interests of the child, the ICL must make submissions
about this to the court. The ICL must analyse relevant reports and
documents and bring these to the court's attention. More
guidance about the role is provided by the National Legal Aid
Guidelines for Independent Children's Lawyers.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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