An ICL is an Independent Children’s Lawyer who is there to represent the child’s best interests only. As part of the Family Law Act 1975 in section 68L the court, a child, an organisation or anyone can appoint a children’s lawyer when there is concern about their welfare. Usually, it is the court that appoints the ICL, in cases where the child needs additional protection for example when;
- There is a lot of conflict and dispute between the two parents who might not be keeping the best interests of the child in mind
- There are allegations of neglect or abuse
- There are complex issues involved that mean an ICL would be of benefit to the child
- There are views expressed by the child or allegations of those views
- There is a history of family violence or allegations to that effect
- One or both parents have serious mental health issues or the child themselves has mental health issues
The role of the ICL
The ICL must consider the views of the child, but in the end, offer their own perspective on what is in the child’s best interest, in spite of what the child might say. All decisions, arrangements and so on put the child first. The three main roles they play in protecting your children are;
- Arranging expert evidence and other evidence to put before the Court
- Helping the child participate in the proceedings in a way that is suitable to their experience, wishes and maturity, depending on the type of case
- Acting as a type of broker between the child and their parents to try and help with negotiations when appropriate
How do they decide what is in the best interest of the child?
There are a number of ways an ICL determines what is best for the child including;
- Make sure they meet with the child unless there are circumstances that do not allow it or the child is not yet at school age
- Examining psychological, medical and psychiatric records on the child and on their parents
- Speaking to school teachers, principals, and counsellors
- Obtaining independent expert evidence such as from the Court Children’s Service if applicable
- Carefully examining documents related to the child such as provided by the police, schools or authorities from child welfare
- Questioning witnesses at the final hearing in Court including experts and parents
Who pays for an ICL?
You might wonder who pays for an independent children’s lawyer. The Legal Aid Commission often funds and manages appointments, though it is possible for the ICL to be privately paid for.
The court issued practice guidelines
Practice guidelines are issued by the Court for the ICL to follow in their work of protecting your children. They offer specific directions according to what different proceedings happen. They are issued specifically by the Chief judge. Practice directions will complement the rules of the court and legislative provisions, set out in more detail some procedures to follow in certain cases and let parties and lawyers know when matters need attention.