- Reforms to the Family Law Act 1975 will come into effect on 5 May 2024. The reforms will impact the work of independent children’s lawyers (‘ICLs’).
- The reforms require ICLs to meet with the children whose interests they represent. The reforms reflect requirements currently imposed on ICLs by Legal Aid NSW.
- The amendments are a positive development as they resolve any confusion about the ICL’s obligation and help to ensure national consistency.
The passing of the Family Law Amendment Bill represents an important moment for ICLs. It places new legislative duties on those advocating for our most vulnerable. This is a positive step for children as they navigate the complexity of family law proceedings.
His Honour Justice Tom Altobelli has described ICLs as the ‘Atticus Finches’ of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for their work representing the interests of our most vulnerable. The ICL’s duty to advocate for a child’s best interests, fulfilling Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘UNCROC’), is arguably strengthened by the recent amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘FLA’).
The legislative changes introduce a new mandatory requirement for ICLs to meet with children and provide them with an opportunity to express their views during the proceedings. This article explores the practical implications of these changes and how they compare with existing arrangements. The changes are positive as they ensure the interests of children are adequately represented in court proceedings.