You may have heard of the terminology “Independent Children's Lawyer” (ICL) but what does it mean? What is the role of an ICL in a parenting case?
In family court proceedings about children, at any point in a parenting case any Judicial Officer can make an order appointing an Independent Children's Lawyer under Section 68L of the Family Law Act. The appointment of such a lawyer is to represent a child's interests in the case.
It is important to understand that it is the child's “interests” that is the focus.
This means the ICL does more than act on the instructions of a child and ascertain the wishes of a child, although that is an important part of the role as well.
It is the ICL's role to form an independent view, based upon the evidence that is available in the case, of what is in the best interests of the child. The ICL is not the child's legal representative.
The ICL is required to act impartially and to ensure that any views that are expressed by a child are fully put before the court.
It is the role of the ICL to consider any reports or documents that may assist the court in determining what arrangements are in the child's best interests.
It is also important to keep in mind that the ICL is aware of the impact that the court case may be having on a child and it is their role to attempt to minimise the trauma to the child that is associated with court proceedings.
The ICL is also required to facilitate agreed resolutions of issues that are in dispute between the parties in the parenting case provided those agreements are promoting the best interests of the child.
The Family Law Act also protects communications that may be made between the child and the ICL. The ICL is not required to disclose any information that the child communicates to the ICL but rather the ICL may disclose to the Court any information that has been communicated by the child that the ICL considers to be in the best interests of the child to disclose.
The role of the ICL is not easy. Any parenting dispute by its very nature involves the child's parents being at loggerheads and sometimes other persons that are important in the child's life such as grandparents or other extended family members who may become involved in the dispute. These are generally people in the child's life that have a significant impact in their role and welfare.
The ICL may at times adopt positions that are contrary to what one or even both of the parties want to happen in the case.
Ultimately it is the role of the Independent Children's Lawyer to represent what is in the best interests of the child and to assist the court in determining issues in an impartial way and assist the court in promoting and making orders that best promote the child's best interests.
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.