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.

This information will help you to understand the role of the ICL.

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What does an ICL do?

What the ICL does will be different in each case. This is because each case and each child is different. However, a key part of the role of the ICL is to gather information about your child, significant people in their life, and services and organisations that have been involved with your family.

After considering all of the information 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.

When will an ICL be appointed?

The Family Court decides when an ICL should be appointed and may consider it in cases that involve:

  • 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 can I do to help my child if an ICL is appointed?

You can help your child 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. 

Will the ICL meet with my child?

In most cases the ICL will meet with the child or children they represent.

From 6 May 2024, in cases where parents were married, an ICL must meet with the child and give them an opportunity to express their views.

However, the ICL will not be required to meet with a child if:

  • they are under 5 years old,
  • they do not want to meet with the ICL,
  • they do not want to express their views, or
  • there are exceptional circumstances why the ICL shouldn't meet with the child.

The court will decide if there are exceptional circumstances (reasons) why the ICL shouldn't meet with a child. This would include a situation where it would be harmful to the child or negatively affect their wellbeing. 

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).
  • 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. 

More information

Legal Aid WA
National Legal Aid
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

 

Reviewed: 20 February 2024

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.