Research on Independent ChildrenÂ’s Lawyers

About this project

The purposes of this research was to examine:

  • how Independent Children's Lawyers (ICLs) are used in the family law system; and
  • what it's like for children to be involved in a case with an Independent Children's Lawyer.

The research was commissioned by the Attorney-General's Department.

The studies were timely as:

  • more cases now involve an Independent Children's Lawyer:
    • in 2006, one-fifth of litigated family law matters involved an Independent Children's Lawyer;
    • in 2009, one-third of litigated family law matters involved an Independent Children's Lawyer; and
  • recent amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) - the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Matters) Act 2011 - gives:
    • priority to the safety of children in parenting matters; and
    • greater weight to protecting a child from harm, when determining a child's best interests.

Field work for the studies were completed in April 2013.

Independent ChildrenÂ’s Lawyers

Independent Children's Lawyers are specialist lawyers that courts sometimes ask to represent a child's best interests in family law proceedings.

Independent Children's Lawyers form their own, impartial, view about a child's welfare and best interests, based on the evidence in the case.

A useful explanation on the role of Independent Children's Lawyers is found on the Victoria Legal Aid website.

Media release (Attorney-General's Department): Research to ask families and children about Independent Children's Lawyers

Participants in the studies

A range of people were invited to take part in the studies including:

  • Legal practitioners appointed to the Independent Children's Lawyer panels in their state/territory.
  • People involved in a family law matter that involved an Independent Children's Lawyer including:
    • children and young people (who were under 18 years of age when the case was in the court); and
    • parents.
  • Professionals who work with Independent Children’s Lawyers, including:
    • judicial officers;
    • lawyers;
    • family consultants; and
    • registrars.

Project design

The project was designed to include perspectives of professionals, parents and children.

There were four parts to the research:

  1. In-depth interviews with parents and children who have been involved in a court matter where an Independent Children's Lawyer was involved.
  2. In-depth interviews with Independent Children's Lawyers.
  3. Online and telephone surveys of Independent Children's Lawyers and other family law system professionals including family consultants, registrars, judicial officers, and non-ICL family law practitioners.
  4. Examination of the practice and policy approaches of Legal Aid Commissions (which fund Independent Children's Lawyer appointments) in each state and territory.

Getting help

We are unable to provide advice or to assist with specific concerns in relation to individual family law matters. If you would like to discuss a specific issue in relation to a family law matter, or an Independent Children's Lawyer who was assigned to a case, please contact your own lawyer in the first instance. If you do not have a legal representative, you can contact:

  • the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321 for information and referrals in relation to family law;
  • the Legal Aid Commission in your state or territory in relation to Independent Children's Lawyers;
  • the Legal Services Commissioner in your state or territory for complaints about the conduct of a lawyer.

If you need some extra support or advice about other issues in your life, Lifeline provide general and crisis telephone counselling and can be contacted on 13 11 14.

Ethics and privacy

The studies were conducted in accordance with strict privacy and ethical requirements.

The anonymity and confidentiality of people who were interviewed and surveyed will be maintained as far as the law allows.

Further information

For further information about this project, please contact the ICL Research Project Team or call 1800 720 142.