Independent Children's Lawyers
An Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL) is a lawyer appointed by the Family Court to represent a child's best interests in a family law case.
The role of the ICL is to present information to the court about your child's welfare and views. The ICL may make recommendations to the court about what parenting orders would be in the best interests of the child.
Video: Independent Children's Lawyers
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This information will help you to understand the role of the ICL. Find out:
- what an ICL does
- how an ICL can be appointed
- how you can help your children if an ICL is appointed, and
- what you can do if you think an ICL has acted improperly.
What does an Independent Children's Lawyer do?
What the ICL does will be different in each case but they will make sure that the court receives all necessary information about the child's welfare. The ICL may collect information about the parties and your child and present this information to the court. For example, the ICL may get information about your child from their school.
After considering all the evidence in the case and any views expressed by the child, the ICL may recommend orders to the court.
An ICL will usually meet with a child and inform the court of the child's views. Whether the ICL will meet with your child is a decision for the ICL. An ICL will usually meet with a child unless:
- your child is under school age (but may still choose to in some cases)
- there are exceptional circumstances (for example, an ongoing police investigation), or
- there are practical difficulties with meeting with your child (for example, the child lives in a remote location).
What can I do to help my children if an ICL is appointed?
You can help your children by:
- making sure they attend all appointments arranged by the ICL
- allowing your child to freely contact the ICL and talk in private, and
- not asking your child about what they said to the ICL.
When will an Independent Children's Lawyer be appointed?
The Family Court can decide to appoint an ICL in a parenting case. This could be because the case involves:
- allegations of family violence, child abuse or neglect
- a high level of conflict and dispute between the parents
- a parent or child with serious medical or mental health issues, or
- difficult and complex issues.
What if I'm unhappy with the ICL?
ICLs are appointed in complex cases where parents have been unable to agree on what is in the best interests of their child. What an ICL does, and what they think is in the child's best interests, may not always meet with the approval of the parents or the child. This does not mean that the ICL has acted inappropriately or failed in their professional responsibilities.
The first step if you believe the ICL is not performing his or her professional responsibilities is to get legal advice about your situation.
You have the following options:
- Make an application to the Family Court of WA for the ICLs removal. You should speak to your lawyer about this (if you have one), or
- Make a complaint to the Legal Services and Complaints Committee that an ICL is not discharging his or her professional obligations. The main role of the Legal Services and Complaints Committee is to ensure ethical conduct and professional behaviour in the legal profession.
- Make a complaint to Legal Aid WA who may be able to investigate some aspects of the conduct of the ICL.
National Legal Aid
What is an Independent Children's Lawyer? - a brochure for parents.
Legal Aid NSW
- Best for kids - a website which has posters and videos to help explain the role of the ICL to children.
Family Court of WA
- Guidelines for Independent Children's Lawyers - national guidelines have been approved by the court and provide guidance for ICLs in their role.
Reviewed: 31 March 2022