Independent Children’s Lawyer

Independent Children’s Lawyer

Ms Patford-Smith is an Independent Children’s Lawyer. She has completed the required training and assessments and is on Victoria Legal Aid’s Independent Children’s Lawyer panel.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is a legal professional appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child or children in family law matters. The primary role of an ICL is to advocate for the child’s welfare and ensure that their views and interests are considered in legal proceedings, particularly in cases involving family disputes, separation, divorce, or issues related to the child’s welfare.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer is different from a lawyer representing one of the parties involved in the dispute (such as the parents). Instead, the ICL focuses solely on the child’s well-being and making recommendations that are in the child’s best interests. They may conduct investigations, gather information, interview the child, and assess the circumstances to understand what would be most beneficial for the child.

Their role is to provide an independent and objective perspective on the child’s needs and interests during legal proceedings involving complex family matters.

Section 68LA of the Family Law Act 1975 sets out the specifics of the role of an ICL, but in summary, they are tasked with the following:

  • Ensuring that the views expressed by the child (where relevant) are put before the Court;
  • That any reports or any other relevant document (which would assist the Court in determining matters) are drawn to the Court’s attention;
  • Use their best endeavours to minimise the level of trauma to any children associated with the proceedings and
  • Where it is in the child’s best interests, act to facilitate an agreed resolution of the extant issues between the parties in dispute.

It is emphasised that an ICL is not the child’s legal representative despite their title. While an ICL can interview the children to ascertain their views (insofar as it would assist the matter), they are not obligated to act on the child’s instructions in the proceedings.

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