An Independent Children’s Lawyer (“ICL”) may be appointed by the court upon application by one of the parties, or of the court’s own motion, depending on the circumstances of the case.
An ICL acts in the best interests of the children but will not act merely on the children’s instructions. Although ICL’s are bound to put forward the children’s views to the court, ICL’s will form and present their own view as to the orders they think would be in the children’s best interests.
The court usually considers it valuable to appoint an ICL to represent the best interests of the children where the case presents with one or more of the following features:
- Allegations of abuse or neglect of the children, or allegations of family violence in general;
- High level of conflict between the parents;
- A party makes allegations as to the children’s views and the children are considered mature enough to express their views;
- The prevalence of mental health issues in the children or either parent.
An ICL might also be appointed in cases involving other difficult or complex issues.
Once an ICL has been appointed, that person becomes a party to the proceedings. The ICL will read through all the court documents and evidence, including Applications, Responses, Affidavits and any subpoenaed material. The ICL also has the opportunity to meet with the children, issue subpoenas, contact the children’s teachers, doctors, psychologists and counsellors in order to form their view as to what is in the children’s best interests. Further, the ICL will be included in all correspondence concerning the proceedings, including settlement negotiations. If you reach an agreement with the other parent regarding how much time each of you are to spend with the children, the ICL will still have the opportunity to present their view to the court as to whether they consider the proposed parenting arrangement to be in the best interests of the children.
In the event that an ICL is appointed in your matter, depending on your financial circumstances, you may be required to contribute to the cost.