If you are going through parenting proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, it’s possible an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) may be appointed to your case. If you’re uncertain about your relationship to the ICL or how you should best interact with them, then below you’ll find some general tips for successfully working with an ICL.
You can read about the role of an ICL on this FCFCOA page. But in brief, an ICL is appointed by the court to represent your child’s best interests in parenting proceedings. The ICL’s role is to collect information and evidence and help the court to work out parenting orders that will be in your child’s best interests.
Although it can seem daunting to have an ICL appointed in your matter, it’s important to understand that the ICL is an unbiased professional who acts solely to ensure your child’s best interests are represented.
Rather than feel defensive and threatened, or attempt to engage in a battle with the ICL, or alternatively try to get them “on your side”, it’s best to simply work together with the ICL with the end goal in mind of achieving the optimal outcome for your child. What might this involve? Here are some tips.
1. Research what the role of an ICL is
First, make sure you understand the ins and outs of what the ICL’s role is so there are no surprises. For example, don’t make the mistake of thinking the ICL is there to comply with your child’s wishes. Instead, the ICL’s job is to review the evidence available, collect additional evidence that is relevant to the parenting proceedings if required (such as issuing subpoenas) and advise their recommendations to the court. Knowledge is power so find out as much as you can about ICLs, their role and the limits of their role as well.
2. Be courteous
Always treat the ICL with respect. Remember that any and all of your interactions with them could become part of their investigation. Of course, sharing positive interactions with the ICL isn’t a guarantee that the ICL will end up making recommendations in your favour! However, negative interactions (or a refusal to interact at all) can make a strong impression on the ICL and should be avoided for this reason. Remain polite and professional towards them at all times and aim for a good working relationship.
3. Be co-operative and responsive
Keep the ICL in the loop of anything significant that happens in your matter so that they are able to fulfil their duties and collect further evidence if necessary.
If you are self-represented, respond swiftly to requests for information. If there are issues with providing information (perhaps you don’t understand a request, or have concerns over sharing information), contact the ICL and discuss the issue with them. They may well be able to explain things for you so that you find compliance easier.
If you have engaged a family lawyer, they will liaise directly with the ICL, but ensure you provide your lawyer the same swift responses.
4. Be judicious about contact
Keep your ICL up-to-date on any issues experienced that could be relevant to the parenting proceedings. However, remember there’s a fine line between being helpful and being seen as interfering and intrusive. So try not to overdo the contact.
Yes, you should inform your ICL in real time of any significant issues around parenting that the ICL ought to investigate as a priority. But don’t try to alert them to every single minor parenting-related issue.
How the parties handle parenting issues during the ICL’s time investigating can factor into the ICL’s final parenting recommendations. And the simple act of a parent endlessly over-reporting petty issues to the ICL can end up painting that parent in a bad light.
This is where it is especially advantageous to have legal representation, since you can ask your lawyer whether or not it is a good idea to notify the ICL of a specific situation.
5. Be helpful
Assist in any way that is necessary. Upon having an ICL appointed, provide them with correct and relevant information and documentation at the start of their investigation. This includes any material or information that could be relevant to your matter. Helping the ICL identify the issues early on in the proceedings may even inform the direction that the ICL’s investigation takes.
Other ways you might assist include ensuring your child attends their appointments with the ICL, helping them know how to contact the ICL themselves and giving them the space to talk to their ICL in private.
6. Listen to your ICL
Finally, make sure to listen carefully to what the ICL says so that you can identify any concerns they, and ultimately the court, may have, in order to proactively address potential problems and better prepare yourself for the court proceedings.
Again, having a family lawyer on board will greatly benefit you in your dealings with an ICL. For expert advice, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400. Cristina is an accredited ICL herself who is able to be appointed by the courts, and is therefore able to answer any questions you may have around ICLs and parenting proceedings.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.