Family Law Glossary: Independent Children's Lawyer, Who are They and What Do They Do?

October 24, 2013


Dealing with family law can be both extremely confusing and extremely stressful. It can be a necessary evil for families in Sydney’s Inner West, and around Australia, to go through, but if you can understand some of the terms that come up in court, the experience can be just that little bit easier. One of the most confusing terms is ‘independent children’s lawyer.’ Sure, it may seem self-explanatory, but it’s a whole lot more complex than it’s simple name suggests.

In its simplest terms, an independent children’s lawyer is a lawyer who represents the child’s interests in court proceedings – whether they match up with the parent’s interests or not. This independent children’s lawyer can be appointed either by a party involved in the case, or the court itself if they feel it’s in the child’s best interests that they’re represented separately from their parents or guardians.

Generally, when an independent children’s lawyer is appointed it’s because the case in front of the court involves either one or more of these aspects:

  • Allegations of child abuse
  • Unresolvable conflict between parties
  • The child has been alienated from one or both of the parents, or, alternatively, they’re on the side of one or both parents
  • Issues of cultural or religious difference
  • The sexual preference of one or both of the parents, or guardians, may impact on the child’s welfare
  • Issues of significant medical, psychiatric or psychological illness or personality disorder
  • When it isn’t appropriate for the child to be with either parent
  • The child’s views would result in a long-standing arrangement or the child spending no time with a parent
  • A proposed removal of the child from Australia that could see the child not spending time with a parent
  • A propose separation of siblings
  • Neither party is legally represented

It’s important to realise that the independent children’s lawyer is not the child’s representative, and they don’t have to do what the child tells them. With the evidence available they are expected to act in the best interests of the child, and they must act in this manner, even if the parties haven’t reached an agreement. In essence, it’s all about getting the best result for the child.

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