Child’s best interests
Working out the parenting arrangements after the breakdown of a relationship is not always easy. Parents who are in conflict with each other may not be able to put the best interests of their children at the forefront of their decision making.
The Family Law Act recognises that there are times when the children need to have their own legal representation in a case about the further arrangements for their care.
What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?
An Independent Children’s Lawyer or “ICL” is a lawyer who is appointed by the Court to represent the children’s interests in the Court proceedings. The ICL does not represent the child personally, but rather the child’s interest in the proceedings. The Court has a wide power to appoint an ICL to a case if it is considered appropriate or necessary in the circumstances. For example, an ICL may be appointed if the parents appear to be entrenched in the conflict where the parents seek orders that are different to what is being recommended by a Court expert or where there are different views about what is in a child’s best interests. An example would be where a child requires a serious medical procedure.
What does the ICL do?
The role of the ICL is serious, because they are required to independently ascertain what is in the best interests of the child and inform the Court as to why they have formed that view.
The ICL’s job is to form an independent view of what is in the best interests of the children. They do this by gathering independent advice from experts and considering all of the evidence in the case. The ICL will make submissions to the Court about what they consider to be in the child’s best interests. They will tell the Court about any views or opinions expressed by the child that are relevant to the issues to be decided by the Court.
Because the ICL does not act for the child directly, the lawyer is not obliged to follow the child’s wishes. There could be circumstances where the child expresses a view that is not followed because the evidence does not support such an arrangement as being in the child’s best interest.
At all times, the ICL must try to minimize the distress of the proceedings on the child and also, where appropriate, try to assist the parties reach a suitable agreement about the issues that are in the child’s best interest.
The help of experts.
The Family Law Act recognises that there are complex issues in families. The Courts regularly call on the assistance of family consultants to report on matters concerning the children’s best interests.
There is no confidentiality between the parties and the family consultant. Anything said to the consultant may be included in the report.
Speaking to a Toowoomba family lawyer about your options and issues that concern you is a good place to start as this may help you to work out a realistic proposal that is in the best interest of your children.