What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?

An independent children’s lawyer (ICL) represents your child’s best interests and makes sure that is the focus of any decisions about parenting arrangements.

The Court can appoint an ICL under s.68L of the Family Law Act 1975, or on the application of a child, an organisation concerned with the welfare of children or any other person, to represent and promote the best interests of a child in family law proceedings.

An ICL is usually appointed by the court upon application by one of the parties where one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  • there are allegations of abuse or neglect in relation to the children
  • there is a high level of conflict and dispute between the parents
  • there are allegations made as to the views of the children and the children are of a mature age to express their views
  • there are allegations of family violence
  • serious mental health issues exist in relation to one or both of the parents or children, and/or
  • there are difficult and complex issues involved in the matter.

What is the role of an ICL?

ICL’s are obliged to consider the views of the child, but ultimately provide their own, independent perspective about what arrangements or decisions are in the child’s best interests.

Their main roles include:

  • arranging for necessary evidence, including expert evidence, to be obtained and put before the court
  • facilitating the participation of the child in the proceedings in a manner which reflects the age and maturity of the child and the nature of the case
  • acting as an honest broker between the child and the parents and facilitating settlement negotiations where appropriate

What information does an ICL consider to determine what is in the children’s best interests?

The ICL may:

  • meet with the children. This is usually the case, unless the child is under school age, or there are exceptional circumstances
  • speak to the children’s counsellors, school teachers and principals
  • examine documents from organisations such as schools, Department of Family and Community Services, the Police, and
  • medical, psychiatric and psychological records of the children and their parents;
  • question witnesses, including parents and experts, at the final hearing;
  • arrange for a family report from a family consultant.

What is a family report and do I need one?

The ICL may arrange for a family report if required. The family report is a written report which is prepared by a family consultant who is appointed by the Court. It provides an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can help the judge hearing the case to make decisions about arrangements for the child/ren. It may also help reach agreement. For more information about family reports about the family, see the Family Reports fact sheet.

The ICL may arrange for a family report if required. The family report is a written report which is prepared by a family consultant who is appointed by the Court. It provides an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can help the judge hearing the case to make decisions about arrangements for the child/ren. It may also help reach agreement. For more information about family reports about the family, see the Family Reports fact sheet.