Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) play a unique role in the family law system in Australia. They are appointed by the Court to independently represent the interests of a child in family law proceedings.
As an independent, legally qualified representative, they are responsible for assisting the Court in making decisions that are in the best interests of the child. The ICL is responsible for advocating for the best interests of the child, and to ensure that the Court is aware of all the relevant information, when decisions are being made. They will often obtain information from the child’s school, health practitioners and other government institutions such as police and child protection, which may not otherwise be brought to the attention of the Court.
An ICL will generally ascertain the views of a child (where it is age and developmentally appropriate to do so). The Australian Government is currently considering incorporating into the Family Law Act a requirement that ICLs must meet with children in the course of the Court proceedings. Unlike child representatives in other courts, an ICL does not act on the instructions of a child, but rather must act in the best interests of the child.
An ICL is a party to the Court proceedings, together with the parents and any other third party (such as grandparents). If an agreement is reached between the parents as to the future parenting arrangements for a child, the Court generally requires consent from the ICL to the agreement before it proceeds to make the orders sought.
The role of an ICL is to assist the Court to have all necessary information, regardless of its impact on either of the parents or their case, to give the Court the best opportunity to make orders which will ultimately be in the best interests of that particular child
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