Independent Children’s Lawyers, or the ICL, as they’re routinely referred to are appointed in Family Law proceeding to represent the interests of a child or children. Their role is somewhat similar to Counsel assisting an inquiry, they are treated as a party, obliged to secure and file evidence and in most instances will provide a recommendation to the Court in relation to the appropriate Order to be made for a child. The Court is not bound by the submissions or recommendation of the ICL, but will take all evidence and argument under consideration before making a decision.
The ICL will:
- At the outset of their appointment seek a significant amount of information from both the Mother and Father relevant to the child’s health, household, schooling, siblings and other matters of importance;
- Sometimes ask for parties to undergo drug testing or attending upon a family report writer or psychiatrist to participate in an assessment process;
- Sometimes ask to meet the children, particularly if they’re of a more mature age to explain their role and the process;
- Subpoena various third parties to obtain relevant information, such as the Police Service, Department of Child Safety, Doctors, Schools and other professionals;
- Be funded by Legal Aid in most instances, with parties asked to contribute if their financial means allow;
- Participate in negotiations with a view to reaching an agreement about arrangements for a child moving forward, and for this reason must be copied into all communication;
- Take steps to secure the wellbeing of a child pending a final hearing if that is necessary; and
- In most instances be discharged when a final Order is made, and is sometimes asked to explain to a child the outcome of the court hearing.
An ICL won’t:
- Necessarily be in a position to articulate a view, or recommendation to the Court, until after evidence is adduced by each of the parties at a trial;
- Interview your child, or render themselves a witness in the proceedings. Any contact with a child is intended to facilitate the child’s access to information and an understanding of the process;
- Engage therapeutically with a child;
- In every instance, make recommendations that strictly accord with what a child wants;
- Necessarily correspond with a self-represented party as often as that party may have wanted.
ICLs are appointed by Legal Aid to a panel and that appointment is routinely reviewed. The process is arduous, and requires any Applicant to establish that they have the requisite experience, skill and understanding to undertake this role. Kara Best holds a position on the panel at the current time. The nature of funding for ICLs necessarily means that remuneration is limited for the experienced solicitors undertaking this important role. At Best Wilson Buckley, we consider the work of Kara to be important work, and part of our commitment to charitable and pro bono need in our community.