When there is a dispute over custody sometimes it is appropriate to have an independent children’s lawyer appointed. An independent child’s lawyer takes a proactive role and acts as an “honest broker” during custody proceedings as the child’s legal representative.
This person does not take instruction from the child, but rather they are to form an opinion after viewing the evidence and act in the best interest of the child. They are impartial, and are to ensure the child’s views are expressed in the proceedings, and make sure that all relevant matters are drawn to the court’s attention.
An independent children’s lawyer will not automatically disclose conversations with the child to the court. Rather, he or she will only disclose this communication if it is in the best interest of the child. However, if the lawyer determines that is in fact in the best interest of the child to share contents of the conversation with the court, it may do so even without the child’s permission.
When deciding whether the appointment of an independent children’s lawyer is proper, the court will consider a list of factors, that hail from a 1994 case. Some of these factors include:
An independent children’s lawyer is not necessary in most custody proceedings. Typically, they are only appropriate where the custody dispute is highly contentious, there are allegations of violence, or other extreme circumstances exist. If you think your case is one in which your child would benefit from representation by an independent children’s lawyer, you simply need to make an application to the court. Occasionally, the court will take action on it’s own initiative if it determines that doing so is in the best interest of the child.
Vanessa Mathews is the founder and managing director of Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists, and has the rare combination of social work qualifications and experience, combined with nearly 20 years’ experience as a lawyer and mediator; it makes her approach to resolving legal relationship issues both sensible and sensitive.
She is a fully accredited family law specialist, mediator, family dispute resolution practitioner and parenting coordinator with a commerce degree – adding a financially astute aspect to her practice.
Vanessa has extensive experience in complex issues that arise from relationship breakdown, and works in partnership with her clients,
who regularly describe her as empathetic
Vanessa is an active member of the family law profession and
a member of the:
Vanessa and Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists
are regularly recognised as a ‘Leading Victorian Family
Lawyer’, ‘Recommended Family Law Mediator’ and a
‘Leading Victorian Family Law Firm’ by Doyle’s Guide to
the Australian Legal Profession.
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