If you are going through court proceedings for the care arrangements for your children, the Court can in certain circumstances appoint a separate lawyer to represent your children's interests. These lawyers are known as Independent Children's Lawyers (or "ICL") and are typically appointed in matters where some of the following factors exist:
- There is a high level of conflict between the parties
- There are allegations made by the parties about the views of the children
- There are allegations of family violence
- Serious mental health issues exist in relation to one or both of the parents or any of the children
- There are other difficult and complex issues involved in the matter.
So what does an ICL actually do?
The main roles of the ICL include:
- Ensuring the necessary evidence, including expert evidence, is obtained and provided to the court
- Where the children are of an appropriate age to be interviewed, the ICL will involve the children in private interviews to assist in obtaining their relevant views and wishes, and can also assist in communicating decisions made by the court or the parents to the children so that they know what care arrangements have been made for them moving forward; and
- Acting as an honest broker between the child and the parties with the intention to mitigate risk and facilitate settlement to occur.
The ICL can request family reports, question witnesses, examine medical documents, speak with the children's counsellors and school teachers, and request urinalysis and hair follicle testing be undertaken by the parties upon random request.
When there is an ICL appointed in a matter they become an equal party, that is, there are then generally three parties that are involved in the proceedings, both parents (or other interested parties) and the ICL. The ICL can present their own independent application to the court with respect to what they believe are the most appropriate orders to seek for the children and reflect their best interests.
If you have a family law enquiry that you wish to speak about, call one of our experienced and caring lawyers today to make an appointment.
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.