For Parents | The Independent Children’s Lawyer
Sometimes the family courts appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer. This video provides information for parents about what they do. You can get more information from www.bestforkids.org.au
For Kids | Independent Children’s Lawyer
To help children understand why they are seeing an Independent Children’s Lawyer and what they can expect. You can get more information from www.bestforkids.org.au
This lawyer helps the court decide what arrangements are in the best interests of the child or children.
What does the independent children’s lawyer do?
The independent children’s lawyer, gives a voice to the court for the children by:
- deciding what they think about a child’s welfare and best interests, based on evidence in the case;
- acting in a way that they believe is in the child’s best interests;
- asking the court to take action, if the lawyer believes it is right to do so;
- ensuring complete impartiality (other than being for the children);
- making sure that the court knows about any thoughts or feelings that the child has spoken about, to do with the case;
- making sure the court is aware of important issues, to do with the child’s best interests, in any reports or documents, including any reports to the Department of Human Services that involve other children in the household;
- doing their best to lessen any trauma to the child caused by the family law case;
- doing their best to help everyone involved in the case (the ‘parties’) make a final agreement, where the lawyer believes this is best for the child.
How does the independent children’s lawyer achieve this?
The lawyer usually does these things by:
- collecting information about the case and the child. This can include meeting the child and talking with people like teachers, doctors, psychologists or counsellors;
- encouraging the parties to put the child first, and to make an agreement that will meet the child’s needs first and foremost;
- asking the court to order a family report, where needed (see ‘What is a family report?’ below);
- providing information to the court, including asking witnesses to give evidence;
- asking witnesses questions, including parents, (if necessary) at the final hearing;
- informing the court on how the law applies to the disagreement in the family;
- recommending how court orders could be written to make sure the child’s interests are protected.
Does the independent children’s lawyer have to meet the child?
If the child is mature enough and old enough, the lawyer will usually meet them (this is not always the case). The lawyer will explain what they do and how court works and ask some questions of the child (or children). The lawyer does not have to tell the court any information that the child may give them, unless they believe this is in the child’s best interests.
Children do not normally give evidence or go to court.
Who finds out what the independent children’s lawyer recommends?
If the lawyer makes a recommendation to the court early in the case they will tell the parties’ lawyers or the parties directly, if a party does not have a lawyer. This is so everyone can think about what the lawyer has said to the court, and try to come to agreement with each other about the case.
The independent children’s lawyer may decide not to make recommendations until after they have heard all the witnesses give evidence in court. If new information becomes available or things in the family change, the independent children’s lawyer may change their recommendations. Once final orders are made the independent children’s lawyer is no longer involved.
What is a family report?
A family report is a written report about the family for use in court. Family report writers generally have qualifications in social work or psychology. They speak to family members and other significant people in order to provide the court with recommendations about arrangements for the children. It gives the judge an expert’s opinion about the issues affecting the child.