An Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is a lawyer appointed by the Court to represent a child in parenting cases.
The Court can appoint an ICL on its own initiative or as a result of an application to appoint an ICL by the child or any other person/organisation concerned with the child’s welfare.
An ICL is usually appointed in cases involving:
- Allegations of child abuse or neglect (physical, psychological or sexual),
- Allegations of domestic or family violence,
- High levels of conflict between parents,
- Significant health issues (physical or psychological) affecting the child, a parent, or someone who has significant contact with the child,
- Significant religious or cultural differences affecting the child,
- Allegedly anti-social conduct by one or more parents, which impacts the child’s welfare,
- Circumstances where neither parent seems appropriate for the child to live with,
- Proposals to separate siblings, or
- Proposals by one parent to move somewhere with the child, which would effectively deny the other parent access.
The role of the ICL is to provide an independent, impartial opinion about what is in the child’s best interests. They may do this by:
- Speaking to the child directly (if the child is old/mature enough),
- Requesting Family Reports,
- Contacting the child’s school, counsellor and/or medical providers,
- Subpoenaing materials from the Police, Department of Child Protection or any other relevant person or organisation to bring that evidence before the Court.
An ICL is not free. In South Australia, the Legal Services Commission is responsible for appointing a lawyer to be the ICL and determining the costs. The Legal Services Commission will usually pursue the ICL’s costs from the parties/parents. A party can apply to be exempt from paying the ICL’s fees if they are in financial hardship or in receipt of legal aid funding for the matter.
If you have recently separated, or know someone who has, and you are concerned about any children involved, speak to Linna today about whether an Independent Children’s Lawyer would be right for your situation.