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What is an ICL?

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:

  i. Cases involving allegations of child abuse, whether physical, sexual or psychological.

ii. Cases where there is an apparently intractable conflict between the parents.

iii. Cases where the child is apparently alienated from one or both parents.

iv. Where there are real issues of cultural or religious difference affecting the child.

v. 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.

vi. 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 child’s welfare.

vii. 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 the children.

viii. Any case in which, on the material filed by the parents, neither seems a suitable custodian.

ix. 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 one parent.

x. 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.

xi. Cases where it is proposed to separate siblings.

xii. Parenting cases where none of the parties are legally represented.

xiii. 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 parties.

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.

If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

This information serves as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. It is based on our research and experience at the time of publication. Please consult our knowledgeable Legal Team for any specific inquiries or advice relevant to your circumstances, as the content may not have been updated subsequently.