The principle which governs Family Court decisions in relation to children’s cases are that the best interests of the child are of paramount importance. Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) sets out this principle and the considerations which go towards determining a child’s best interests.
The child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the child from any harm, whether psychological or physical, are the pertinent matters requiring consideration. Further, the Convention of the Rights of the Child are now also considered.
Independent Children Lawyer
Division 10 Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), allow for an Independent Children’s Lawyer (“ICL”) to be appointed to Family Court cases involving parenting disputes. In particular, an ICL may be appointed where the parties are self-represented and complex issues exist, such as family violence, drug-use, parental alienation, or where the Court deems the child’s views require more careful consideration.
The ICL is an impartial lawyer, whose primary focus is achieving parenting Orders for the child’s best interests in accordance with current legislation and case law.
The ICL may interview the child, their teachers, medical or health professionals involved with the child, in addition to family members. The ICL then collates and considers all the evidence and may also engage a Family Consultant or a Court Expert if required.
Single Expert Witness & Expert Witness
In some cases, a Single Expert Witness (“SEW”) is appointed by the Family Court with the consent of both parents. If the parents cannot resolve an issue which they agree is required to determine the best interest of their child, then they may jointly consent to appoint an SEW.
The SEW is provided with ‘terms of reference’ which includes specific questions relating to the particular child in their particular circumstances. They are then required explain their expertise and experience and provide a report outlining their opinion and recommendations.
The SEW will interview both parents in the presence of the child and may also meet with the child separately where appropriate. The parents’ authority to release information from any medical practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists who have been engaged with the child since the parents’ separation may also be required.
An Expert Witness provides similar information to an SEW, however, the Expert Witness is engaged by one parent to provide evidence to support that parent’s position.
For advice on whether your child’s best interests would be served by an Independent Children’s Lawyer, Single Expert Witness or Expert Witness, our experienced family lawyers are qualified to assist you. Please contact our team at Affinitas Legal on 08 6243 7544 for further information or to book a preliminary appointment.
Author – Stacey Ruthven
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The information contained on this brochure is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a suitably qualified lawyer.
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