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Information for Independent Children's Lawyers

This page contains information for Independent Children's Lawyers acting under a grant of legal aid.

Expert reports

If any party to the proceedings is legally aided you must obtain prior approval from Legal Aid NSW before seeking an Expert Report.

Approval will be given only if there is a psychiatric issue involved,  there is an allegation of abuse which needs further investigation by the court, or the Director, Grants Division is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist.

If any party to the proceedings is not legally aided, you must seek an order from the court that the parties to the proceedings pay the costs of obtaining the expert report, and ensure the parties pay the costs before ordering the report.

If Legal Aid NSW approves the report and a court application is necessary, the fee payable will be increased by $260 net.

Engagement of counsel

Before briefing counsel you must seek approval from Legal Aid NSW stating your reasons for wanting counsel. Legal Aid NSW will not authorise the briefing of counsel for Local Court matters, except in particularly complex or exceptional cases, nor for interim hearings in the Family Court.

Legal Aid NSW will authorise the briefing of counsel by an independent children’s lawyer for final hearings in the Family Court only where the matter raises complex issues of fact or law, or  there are other exceptional circumstances, which warrant the briefing of counsel.

If you appear as solicitor/advocate on the final hearing of this matter you are entitled to a fee uplift of 50% for the hearing time to a maximum of 6 hours per day.

Extension of aid for hearing

When the matter is listed for hearing, you should contact Legal Aid NSW and request an extension of aid providing:

  1.  a copy of Family Report or the Expert Report
  2.  advice of the number of hearing days allocated by the court
  3.  advice of the number of hearing days required to determine the parenting issues.

Where the court has fixed a matter for hearing on a consolidated basis covering both financial and parenting issues, you should seek the court’s cooperation to limit your involvement in the hearing to parenting issues.

Costs ceiling on grant of aid

Legal Aid NSW has determined that the total costs and disbursements (including expert’s reports, general disbursements and counsel’s fees) in relation to the matter shall not exceed $18,000. If you consider that your anticipated costs will exceed this sum, you should immediately advise Legal Aid NSW.

In exceptional circumstances arrangements may be made with the Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid NSW, for additional funding. In any event, would you please advise Legal Aid NSW promptly if you consider that your total costs and disbursements are likely to exceed $10,000.

Costs recovery

Legal Aid NSW policy is that parties to the proceedings (excluding yourself) not in receipt of legal aid should contribute equally to the costs of the independent children’s lawyer.

As soon as you receive the letter appointing you as an independent children’s lawyer you must advise the parties, or their solicitors, that Legal Aid NSW will be seeking reimbursement of the entire costs of the independent children’s lawyer, but that if a party is legally aided, and they or their solicitor so advises and specifies the related Legal Aid NSW file number, Legal Aid will not pursue reimbursement.

Any party not in receipt of legal aid is requested to pay their proportionate share of the basic composite fee of $3,300 (inclusive of GST) being the anticipated costs and disbursements for the work up to but not including the defended hearing of the matter.

Payment should be made within 14 days of the receipt of your letter either through you, or directly to Legal Aid NSW. In the event of direct payment, it may be made in person, by telephone or by mail, by cash, cheque, and money order or by Visa, Bankcard or MasterCard credit cards. Whatever method of payment is used, it is essential that the person making the payment quote the Legal Aid NSW file number for the matter to ensure the payment is correctly receipted.

Payment in person can be made at any office of Legal Aid NSW. Payment by credit card can be made by telephone on 02 9219 5946 or 02 9219 5706 during ordinary business hours. The caller should have the file number and the credit card details ready. Cheques or money orders, whether through you or by mail to Legal Aid NSW, should be made payable to the Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid NSW and posted to:

The Chief Executive Officer
Legal Aid  NSW
PO Box K847
Haymarket NSW 1238

In addition to the basic composite amount, each party will be required to contribute in the same proportion to any additional costs of the independent children’s lawyer including on the final hearing (including counsel fees, if any). Estimates of these costs and disbursements should be provided by you to the parties as the matter progresses. Any party not in receipt of legal aid may apply to Legla Aid NSW for a reduction or waiver of their contribution or ask that payment be deferred to the conclusion of the proceedings.

If any party makes such a request they must complete the financial statement form which will be sent to you with the letter appointing you as an independent children’s lawyer, and return it to you with verification of their means.

You should then forward these documents to Legal Aid NSW with relevant comments, in particular as to the viability of collecting costs if Legal Aid NSW were to defer payment.

Unless Legal Aid NSW waives a party’s liability to pay a contribution towards the costs of the independent children’s lawyer, you must apply to the court for orders for payment.