When you are separating from a partner and have children to consider, you may come across the term Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL). An ICL is a court appointed lawyer who is designated to represent the children in your family matter when you and your partner are facing difficulty reaching an agreement. The court can appoint one where there is a need to represent and promote the best interests of the children, separately from the wishes of the parents.
When Will the Court Appoint One?
Usually, the Court will appoint an ICL when there are allegations of abuse or neglect by either party about the children or when there is a high level of animosity and conflict between the parents. The Court will also consider whether the children are at a mature enough age to express their own views, whether there is a history of any family violence and whether there are any mental health issues with either parent or any of the children.
What Can They Do?
Independent Children’s Lawyers are there to consider what your children want and their feelings and opinions on interactions with both parents. They are experienced lawyers who have at least five years experience in Family Law and undergo a specialist training programme in this area. They have to assess what is best for the welfare of the children and they act completely impartially. They will meet with the children if they are mature enough and old enough and speak with them about their wishes. The children do not have to talk to the ICL if they don’t want to.
The ICL makes sure the Court knows what the children want if they have spoken to them and they are there to try and get both parents to act in the best interests of each of their children. To do this, they can:
- Speak with teachers, doctors and psychologists who have interacted with the children;
- They can recommend how the Court should write orders; and
- They can assess all of the evidence in the case including statements given by witnesses.
They can also arrange for a consultant, usually an expert in social work or psychology, to write a family report.
What is a Family Report?
The family consultant who is also appointed by the Court writes a family report after speaking with all of the members of the family. They assess all of the issues in the case and help the Court by providing recommendations about any arrangements for the children including when each parent should spend time with the children.
What Do I Need to Do?
If an ICL has been appointed in your family law matter, you may be charged for their services. Depending on the State you are in and the difficulty of your matter, each parent will need to pay half of the costs. If you receive any LegalAid or apply for financial hardship, you can have their fees waived. It is best to let your children speak to the ICL without coaching them beforehand, so as to allow an ICL to do their job properly. It is also best not to ask them about their conversations or speak about the case in front of them. If you have legal representation, you cannot speak to the ICL about the case directly. Your lawyer can help pass along any of your concerns or questions to them.
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