An Independent Children’s Lawyer is an appointed solicitor who represents your child’s best interest and makes sure that is the focus of any decisions about parenting arrangements.
They are not appointed in every parenting dispute and the Court will only make the order if one or more of the following circumstances exist: –
- There are allegations of abuse or neglect in relation to the child;
- 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 child is 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 child; and/or
- There are difficult and complex issues involved in the matter, such as disabilities or issues such as gender dysphoria.
The main role of the Independent Children’s Lawyer includes 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; and acting as an honest broker between the child and the parents and facilitating settlement negotiations where appropriate.
The Independent Children’s Lawyer may meet with the children. This is usually the case, unless the child is under school age, or there are exceptional circumstances. The Independent Children’s Lawyer is 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. They do not need to act in accordance with the child’s wishes if it would be against their best interests to do so.
The Independent Children’s Lawyer may also speak to the children’s counsellors, teachers and principals. They may examine documents from organisations such as schools, Department of Family and Community Services, the police, medical, psychiatric and psychological records of the children and their parents. They may question witnesses, including parents and experts at the final hearing, and arrange for a family report from a Family Consultant.
The Independent Children’s Lawyer essentially assists in the Court in exploring any of the risk issues and determining what is in the children’s best interests in relation to time arrangements with both parents.