Independent Children’s Lawyers—exemption from payment of new court fees

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Moira Coombs

One of the Government’s revenue measures in the 2013–14 Budget is to exempt Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) from paying certain court fees in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. The fees relate to the issuing of subpoenas and the filing of applications for interim orders in family law proceedings. The estimated cost to revenue is $4.0 million over four years.[1]

Exempting [Independent Children’s Lawyers] from these payments supports the Government objective of delivering equitable access to the justice system.[2]

The term independent children’s lawyer is defined in the Family Law Act 1975:

Independent children’s lawyer for a child means a lawyer who represents the child’s interests in proceedings under an appointment made under a court order under subsection 68L(2).[3]

The Independent Children’s Lawyer is a best interests advocate, rather than a representative of the child.

In 2012 former Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, when announcing a research project by the Australian Institute of Family Studies on the effectiveness of Independent Children’s Lawyers in representing children in family law matters noted:

Under the Family Law Act 1975, an Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed in some family law matters to assist courts in resolving disputes involving children. The appointments are managed and funded by legal aid commissions. Independent Children’s Lawyers are specially trained legal professionals. They ensure agreements are in a child’s best interests and that a child’s views are put to the court. Independent Children’s Lawyers are one way the Government meets Australia’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[4]

The Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, notes in the Budget media release that the exemption of Independent Children’s Lawyers from certain court fees responds to stakeholder feedback and recognises:

the integral role of Independent Children’s Lawyers in complex family law matters and will enable these lawyers to provide vital independent representation to children in court hearings at reduced cost.[5]

[1].       Australian Government, ‘Part 1: revenue measures’, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013-14, accessed 16 May 2013.

[2].       This is part of the Government commitment in the 2013-2014 Budget to improve access to justice for Australians. See M Dreyfus (Attorney-General), Increasing access to justice because ‘everyone deserves a fair go’, media release, 14 May 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[3].      Family Law Act 1975 Subsection 68L(2) of the Act provides that where the court deems it to be necessary, the court may make an order for the independent representation of the child’s interests in the family law proceedings.

[4].     N Roxon (Attorney-General), Research to ask families and children about Independent Children’s Lawyers, media release, 25 May 2012, accessed 15 May 2013.

[5].       M Dreyfus (Attorney-General), Increasing access to justice because ‘everyone deserves a fair go’, media release, op. cit.

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