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Independent Childrens Lawyers

The Family Court has ordered the appointment of an Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL). 

What does this mean ? How does it work ?

 The court has asked Legal Aid to provide a lawyer to represent your child. This person is called thdependent Childrens Lawyer (ICL).

Why have an ICL ?

The purpose of representation is to help the court to reach a decision which is in the best interests of the child.

What does the ICL do ?
  • Makes sure the court is given all relevant information about your child's welfare and wishes as children themselves do not give evidence or attend court.
  • Obtains information about the child. This may be dane by discussions with people like teachers, doctors, psycologists or counsellors.
  • Talks to the child (where appropriate) to establish the child's wishes and views. The ICL will ensure that the court is aware of your childs wishes.
  • Forms an independant view about the child's welfare and best interests based on this material and makes submissions to the Judge based on that view. This view may not necessarily reflect the wishes of your child.
  • Encourages and takes part in any negotiations to settle the matterin your childs interests.
  • Ensures proper arrangements are made to protect your childs interests until the case is finalised.
  • Prepares a case based on the best interests of your child.

At the court hearing the ICL conducts the case for the child in the usual way including cross examination, presenting evidence and making submissions.

When does the ICL say what they want ?

In some cases an ICL will know early in a matter what orders they seek on behalf of the child. If the ICL does know they will tell the parents lawyer. This can help negotiations. In other cases, the child's best interests may be unclear and the ICL is unable to make a recommendation until much later, sometimes not at all.

How does the ICL decide what orders to seek from the court ?

Each child's case is different. There is no fixed formula but there is a general approach. Before knowing what to ask for the ICL will:

  • Read all the affidavits
  • Examine any subpoenaed documents
  • Find out what outcome your child wants and why they want it
  • Talk to the court counsellor and other relevant people
  • Listen carefully to the evidence if a casegoes to hearing. Not all information is evidence, the ICL can only rely on evidence.

The ICL then applies family law cases and law to all this information. It is improtaint to remember that the ICL will follow the law.

Can the ICL change their recommendation ?

Yes an ICL's recommendation will be based on the evidence available at that time. If new evidence becomes available before the court has made fianl orders, the ICL will need to consider the impact on any recommendations.

Does the court always make the orders the ICL asks for ?

Not at all. The judge listens carefully to what everyone in the case says.

What is a family report or experts report ? 

It is usual in difficult cases for the court to order a written report about a child, the parents and anybody else involved. An application for this order will often be made by the ICL. This is not the ICL's report but is prepared by a Family Court counsellor, child psychologist or child psychiatrist depending on the case. The information is obtained by interviewing the people concerned which includes you. The report will be released by the court and given to your lawyer and the ICL. It may result in discussions leading to an agreement to settle the case. if the case is not settled, the report will form part of the evidence considered by the Judge.

What happens when the case is over ?
  • The ICL explains the court orders to your child (if they are old enough to understand)
  • The ICL may also be involved in follow up arrangements in relation to any court orders
  • Your child may contact the ICL if there are any problems
How can you help ?
  • Make your child available when the ICL asks you to. It is very importaint that you help by attending all appointments arranged by the ICL.
  • Ask your lawyer to make any necessary arrangements with the ICL. It is not appropriate for you to make direct contact when you have your own lawyer. The ICL must work independantly. If you bring your child to see the ICL please remember that the ICL is your childs lawyer and will not be able to discuss the matter with you. This applies to both parents. Any matters you wish to raise should be raised with your own lawyer who will contact the ICL.
  • Respect the confidentiality of your childs discussions with the ICL. You should not question your child about these sessions.
  • Allow your child to freely contact the ICL, in confidence.
  • Complete and return the childs information.