The Independent Representation of Children

CFLS accepts appointments as an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) in family law proceedings.​

Watch how we help to represent children.

We represent and promote the best interests of the child or children, independent of the other parties. We work closely with other court-appointed experts to ensure that all relevant evidence regarding the children is placed before the court, so that the Judge can make the best decisions for the family.

This is a professional relationship with the child, based on respect and trust, and in most cases we would meet with the children. Where appropriate, we explain our role to the children, obtain their wishes and convey these to the court, taking into account age, maturity and temperament.

We facilitate opportunities for negotiation and resolution wherever possible, and seek to give the children information about the court process, as well as a voice in the decision- making process.  


What is an ICL?

An ICL is a lawyer appointed to represent the best interests of a child in court proceedings.

Who appoints an ICL?

An ICL is appointed by the court and referred to Victoria Legal Aid for referral to a practitioner on their panel.

When it is appropriate to seek an ICL be appointed?

An ICL can only be appointed when the criteria in Re K has been fulfilled. These are:

  1. Cases involving allegations of child abuse whether physical sexual or psychological;

  2. Cases where there is an apparently intractable conflict between the parties;

  3. Cases where the child is apparently alienated from one or both parents;

  4. Where there are real issues of cultural or religious difference affecting the child;

  5. Where the sexual preferences of either or both parents or some other person having significant contact with the child is likely to impinge on the child’s welfare;

  6. Where the conduct of either or both of the parents or some other person having significant contact with the child is alleged to be anti-social to the extent that is seriously impinges on the child’s welfare;

  7. Where there are issues of significant medical, psychiatric or psychological illness or personality disorder in relation to either party or a child or other person having significant contact with the child;

  8. Any case in which, on the material filed by the parents, neither parent seems a suitable carer for the child;

  9. Any case in which a child of mature years is expressing strong view which would involve changing a long standing arrangement or a complete denial of contact to one parent;

  10. Where one of the parties proposes that the child will either be permanently removed from the jurisdiction or permanently removed to such a place within the jurisdiction as to greatly restrict or exclude the other party from the possibility of contact with the child;

  11. Cases where it is proposed to separate siblings;

  12. Cases where neither party is legally represented;

  13. Applications in the court’s welfare jurisdiction relating in particular to the medical treatment of children where the child’s interests are not adequately represented by one of the parties.

What is the role of the ICL?

The role of the ICL is to act impartially, to advise the child of their role, to inform the court of the child’s wishes in an admissible form, and to promote the best interests of the child. It is a professional relationship with the child, working collaboratively with relevant experts. The aim of the ICL is to promote the timely resolution of proceedings consistent with the best interests of the child, and to promote opportunities for the parties to work towards such a resolution.

Who pays for the ICL?

The ICL is funded by Victoria Legal Aid in accordance with their Lawyers Handbook.

What information should be provided to the ICL?

Following appointment and referral from VLA, the ICL will file a Notice of Address for Service and send this to the parties with a Questionnaire and Authority enabling the ICL to gather the necessary information to fulfill their role.

What if my information changes?

The parties to the proceedings should advise the VLA if any of the information they have provided to the ICL changes.

How do I communicate with the ICL?

All communication with the ICL should be in writing where possible, and be shared with all other parties to the proceedings. If a party is legally represented, the ICL can only communicate with that legal representative and not directly with the party.

Can I meet with the ICL?

The ICL will meet with the child or children if they are of school age to explain their role. They do not meet with the parties other than to assist with meeting the children.

What information can I expect from the ICL?

The ICL will gather information regarding the children from independent sources including but not limited to their school, or child care centre, professionals involved with them, reports from agencies such as The Department of Families, Fairness &Housing (DFFH), Contact Centres, or  police. This will be shared with all parties.

Does the ICL represent the children and what they want at court?

Depending on the children’s age and maturity, the ICL may share the children’s stated wishes with the court. They will also share other evidence and information relevant to the children’s best interests, and in particular any risk factors identified by the material and/or the court.

Can I get help from the ICL to run my case if I do not have a lawyer?

No, this is not the role of the ICL.

How will the ICL provide opportunities for negotiation?

The ICL will be advocating for a Dispute Resolution event- either within the court system or as conducted by Victoria Legal Aid through their FDR Service- at appropriate stages in the court proceedings when relevant evidence is available to assist with the negotiations.

What people have been saying

I am very grateful to Susan for her expert and reassuring advice, assisting me to navigate a very stressful 12 months. I am so happy with the outcome which allows me and my family to look forward to a bright future that continues to include my son in all of our lives. This outcome would not have been possible without her thoughtful guidance and reassuring presence throughout the year. I would recommend her to anyone going through a separation.

Sam Dodds
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