Where the court feels that the child’s interests should be independently represented, they may order for an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) to be appointed.
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.
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
When an ICL is appointed they will usually organise to meet independently with the children. During this meeting parents of the children are not permitted to be in the room. The meeting usually takes 15 minutes.