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E33: Independent Children’s Lawyers

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On the Show Today You’ll Learn

This month Heather and Ben spoke to Gabrielle Cantrall, the acting Solicitor in Charge of Family Law with LegalAid NSW, about Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICL).  These are the specialist lawyers the Court appoints to represent children in complex family law matters.

LegalAid NSW is the body responsible for accrediting Independent Children’s Lawyers in New South Wales, so Gabrielle is uniquely qualified to talk about their role and responsibilities.  Both Ben and Heather are qualified Independent Children’s Lawyers with many years combined experience working in this space.  They are able to provide perspective on the day to day of working with and for children in family law cases.

Topics covered include:

  1. Understanding Independent Children’s Lawyer’s
    1. What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?
    2. What is a lawyer’s role when acting as an ICL?
    3. How does a lawyer qualify as an ICL?
    4. When does the Court appoint an ICL?
  2. The parents’ role with an ICL:
    1. Do parents get a say in who will represent their child?
    2. Can parents sit in when an ICL meets with their child?
    3. Does an ICL keep parents informed?
    4. What if a parent is unhappy with their child’s lawyer?
  3. Acting as an ICL:
    1. Does an ICL act on the instructions of a child?
    2. How does an ICL form a view on what’s in a child’s best interest?
    3. What experts does an ICL use to help them form this view?
    4. What if a child has been told what to say to an ICL?
    5. How does an ICL represent a child in Court?
    6. What is the role of the ICL at the end of proceedings?

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Role of an ICL:  you will find good explanations on Legal Aid NSW and The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

ICL Guidelines:  The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has published clear guidelines for Independent Children’s Lawyers.

Information for Kids:  Best for Kids provides an excellent video and resources to help children understand why they have a lawyer and what to expect.


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Full Episode Transcript

Welcome!  Independent Children’s Lawyers

Benjamin Bryant:  Welcome back, everyone, I’m your host, Benjamin Bryant, and I’m very pleased to be back at the microphone after a short break between podcast episodes. I’m also very pleased to be back with my partner in crime, Heather McKinnon. Hello, Heather. It’s been weeks since we’ve shared the microphone together. Are you happy to be back in our little recording studio?

Heather McKinnon: Absolutely Ben – very happy and I loved giving Gemma that air time. That was an excellent episode about how you balance parenting and work. I thought it was really good.

Benjamin Bryant: Yes. Our last episode, Gemma Rope and I spoke to Daisy Dowling, an executive coach and author all the way from New York City, about juggling work and parenthood. It was a great show, but we did miss you, Heather.

Heather McKinnon: I’m so glad I haven’t been put out to pasture yet.

Benjamin Bryant: This month we’re going to take on a very different subject. We’ll be talking about Independent Children’s Lawyers. Basically, these  are specially qualified lawyers who are appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child. Heather and I are both Independent Children’s Lawyers, so we will be sharing some of our thoughts and experiences. But we also have a very special guest on the show today. Gabrielle Cantrall is the acting Solicitor in Charge of Family Law with LegalAid NSW. LegalAid NSW is responsible for appointing Independent Children’s Lawyers in New South Wales, so Gabrielle will be able to provide a broader perspective on the topic. Welcome to the show, Gabrielle, and thank you so much for taking time out to participate today.

Gabrielle Cantrall: Oh, you’re welcome Ben. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Benjamin Bryant: And just before we get started, I wanted to give my usual reminder to share this show with family and friends who might benefit. We do this show to help empower the community with knowledge, so please do your bit and share the learning.

What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?

Benjamin Bryant: So let’s start with the basics. Gabrielle, can you explain to our listeners what an Independent Children’s Lawyer is and what they do?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, an Independent Children’s Lawyer, which is often referred to as an ICL, is a lawyer who is experienced in family law, who has undergone specific training in order to represent children.  An ICL, an Independent Children’s Lawyer, is exactly that: independent from mom and dad or both parents and also independent of the children. We don’t do exactly what the children want, either. Our job is to make sure that the court has all the information about the children and their wishes, and to help the court make a decision in the best interests of the children. It’s a really challenging and rewarding role.

What is a lawyer’s role when acting as an ICL?

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather, you’ve been an ICL for many years. How do you view your role when acting as an ICL?

Heather McKinnon: I think the best explanation is that it’s a forensic role. So, when mum and dad are in conflict, what the judge needs me to do is to really get an objective understanding of what’s happening for each child in the family. So, some of the best things that I can do are to get all the paperwork about the kids. So that might be medical records, records from their schools, and to speak to people that would really be able to give that independent assessment of how little ones are going. So, I often make an appointment with the school principal. They will then bring in the school counsellor or the classroom teacher, and we have a chat about what the school’s observation is about the child, how they’re getting on socially, whether the school has any information that may be different from what the parents are presenting to the court. So, it’s an investigative role if you like to make sure that as much as possible, every bit of information about the little one is available for both the judge and to the court consultants who are the family experts who are going to prepare reports for the judge.

Benjamin Bryant:  That’s a great summary. Heather and I think it’s really important and it might be trite to say, but there is a difference as a lawyer. I know I approach a matter as a lawyer for a parent differently to how I approach a matter as an Independent Children’s Lawyer, it’s a completely different role. And a lot of people don’t understand that, and we talk about the difference about how you get instructions and how you advocate on behalf of your client or the child. But it is different. It’s really different.

How does a lawyer qualify as an ICL?

Benjamin Bryant: Gabrielle, how does a lawyer go about qualifying to be an ICL?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, firstly, they become inspired by what you and Heather just said. That was a nice little a wrap up of our job and what we do. But in terms of qualification, LegalAid NSW requires that you have five years experience as a lawyer and including that you’ve spent a significant portion of that time (75%) in the family law jurisdiction. So, by the time you apply to be an ICL, you’re used to representing parties in proceedings, you’re used to the type of discussions that are held in court and the type of circumstances that families find themselves in when they need dispute resolution assistance. You also have to complete the National ICL Training and additional LegalAid New South Wales training, which is by invitation. As a solicitor, it is a real achievement to have the experience and standing to be nominated and accepted for ICL work. It is a really important job carrying the voice of the child in the space.

Under what circumstances will the Court appoint an ICL?

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather in your experience under what circumstances might the Court appoint an ICL?

Heather McKinnon: Well, the actual law surrounding it starts with a very famous High Court decision called Re K, but what that decision did back in the late 80s was set out, when the court’s to look at appointing an ICL. And you can summarise those, there’s about 16 factors, but I’ll just go through the main ones. If in a case there’s allegations of abuse or neglect of a child, where there’s a really high level of conflict between the parents, where there are allegations made as to the views of the child, and that’s particularly important when children reach high school, when they’re mature and they’ve got a much better sense of what their own needs are. There are allegations of family violence. Where there’s serious mental health issues in relation to either parent or the child. So, for example, if a parent has a psychotic illness or a child’s on the spectrum, then an ICL’s really important in those cases. The complexity of the case is another thing that the court might look at. So, on the Mid-North Coast, for example, we have a lot of indigenous families where the protagonists in the litigation might be the maternal grandmother, the paternal grandmother, the mum, the dad and somebody else. So, where cases involved much more than the usual family dynamic, a judge is often benefited by the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer.

Do parents get a say in who will represent their child?

Benjamin Bryant: And do the parents get a say in who will represent their child? And if not, why not?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, sometimes people do ask this question. Parties, and I know Heather you’ve talked about sometimes we have grandparents, sometimes we have aunties and uncles, not just parents, but parties and parents do not get a say in who is allocated as an ICL for their child. The experience and training that our panel lawyers and our in-house practitioners undergo in order to become an ICL means that people (so family members, parents) can have real confidence that the ICL appointed for their child is able to carefully use this skill and experience to fulfil the role.

Does an ICL act on a child’s instructions?

Benjamin Bryant: And Gabrielle, my next question is one that we get asked all the time: does an ICL act on a child instructions the way that a regular lawyer would act on a client’s instructions?

Gabrielle Cantrall:  So the short answer is, no, with working as an ICL, it is different. And it can be useful, I think, to think of the child having a voice rather than a choice. So it’s about providing a space for the child to be heard in the proceedings. And Heather, I really liked the way you described collecting all the bits of information about the child and talking to the people who know these children as individual little human beings and can help us paint the picture of understanding really what this child or these children in this family need to put life in in a reasonable space and keep going with it.

Gabrielle Cantrall: So no, not instructions. But it is really important and is a key part of our role that the views of the children are placed before the court. We also think about things like the weight that should be given to those views. For example, it depends on the age, sometimes and the developmental opportunity of the child. We all know 12-year-olds who are full of energy and really enjoying their last years of primary school. And then there are other 12-year-olds who have quite some maturity and really considered ideas about how their life should look. And there are also children who don’t want to express a view. All types of children are in the mix and it’s also about how that fits with that family. All families come in all different shapes and sizes and different makeups and what works for one family might be really different to what works in a different family.

Benjamin Bryant: Absolutely. And a like that Gabrielle, I’m going to use that from now on. It’s a voice, not a choice. Good one.

Benjamin Bryant: And I think we’ve all had parties or clients before that think they’re three and five year old know what’s best for themselves, and they really just need to inform the court as soon as possible.

Gabrielle Cantrall: Look, and it’s also interesting to think about the type of decisions that you allow children to make at different ages. Three and five year olds do not make long term decisions about where they go to school or what they do in the holidays or all that type of stuff. Their parents make them for the children. So it’s a bit of a sliding scale and a bit of a gradient, as Heather said, you get to these high school kids and that’s a bit of a different kettle of fish. They’ve got some real agency and some real capacity there. So I think that’s important to keep that in mind as well.

How does an ICL form a view about what’s in a child’s best interests?

Benjamin Bryant: And Gabrielle, in addition to getting the views of children, how does an ICL go about forming a view about what’s in their best interests?

Gabrielle Cantrall:  I think Heather spoke about that quite beautifully, and I would I entirely agree with her. You’ve got to read the material that the parents have presented to the court. You’ve got to talk to independent, important people in the children’s lives, like a school counsellor, like a principal. You have to think about other evidence in the matter, what paints a picture of the life and family for this child? For example, is school a good and happy place or does the child have really specific educational needs and how are they being met? Does the child have specific medical needs? And it is always so important to think about culture and extended family and how children identify within their culture as they’re growing up. We have to include expert evidence. So a family consultant or family report writer or court expert and talk to the child., And obviously we talk to children differently, depending on their age and stage of life. The three and the five year olds don’t get a forensic interview that you might have with an adult client when you’re kind of working out what you’re going to do, but to have a space to actually meet the kids and to get a sense of who they are, even if all that you’re doing is playing blocks. So all through the frame of:  firstly, what is safe and secondly, what is the benefit to the child of the meaningful relationship with both parents? And those two things, safety and the benefit to the child of the meaningful relationship with their parents, are pretty much the whole thing on which the ICL works. Absolutely paramount.

What experts might an ICL refer to?

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather, what experts might you refer to when you’re acting as an ICL?

Heather McKinnon: So, when we talked about that forensic investigation, what we tend to do initially is get all the paperwork in and sometimes we then wait for the court to have a family report prepared, which is prepared by an in-house expert court consultant. But there are cases where from the beginning it is very clear that we’re going to need a very highly qualified expert. And those people are child and adolescent psychiatrists. They’re rare as hen’s teeth, and there are about probably about eight or nine in New South Wales Those individuals are called on by people who act as ICLs in cases where you have something like a major mental illness. So, we might have a mum who has schizophrenia who has been unstable in the last few years and is treatment resistant. So, no matter what the medical system has done, the children have been exposed to quite chaotic behaviour over a long period of time. So, the child and adolescent psychiatrist is employed by the ICL to look at what is the impact on the parent’s behaviours or conditions on the children? And what’s the road map to make sure that the children are safe, that they have clear understanding of what their daily arrangements are going to be and more importantly, what the parents have to do to make the child’s life more stable.

Heather McKinnon: So, the other time that we will use experts at that level is when we’ve got a diagnosis that is in dispute. And to give an example, the two that we would see most often are autism diagnosis disputes, where one parent does not agree with the paediatric review. And so, we have to get in an independent paediatrician to give a definitive diagnosis for the judge so that that part of the dispute can be dealt with with the input of a really well qualified expert. The other area that we see sometimes are things like disputes over whether or not gender dysphoria is present in the child. So, in a gender dysphoria case, often one parent will be objecting to the diagnosis and treatment. And so we, as ICLs, have to find one of the experts at one of the units at, say, Westmead or John Hunter, to prepare a report and again give very informed guidance to the judge as to what needs to happen for that child. So there are all sorts of experts that we might need to call on, but the two main ones are child and adolescent psychiatrist and paediatricians and they’re people that we don’t have access to in the court system. They’re not on staff, if you like. And so the navigation of the funding of those experts and how we can make sure that that expert has everything they need is part of the role that we play as the child’s lawyer. I think Ben at the moment, we would have three or four cases where there are child and adolescent psychiatrists working on the file, and we’ll get an email from the psychiatrist saying, Heather or Ben, could you chase up these records there? They’re digging down deeper and they’re wanting to get more background information. So again, every case is different. But the skill of the ICL is to know when to escalate it to experts when the judge needs that sort of help to make a decision for the child.

Benjamin Bryant:  I’ll just add that sometimes we need to make the difficult and bold decision of what expert not to get. We’ve had matters where children have already met with the school counsellor and the principal and you, the ICL and the family consultant and the GP and the paediatrician and the list goes on. Sometimes it’s very appropriate to do nothing. There is enough information before the court and that can sometimes be a pretty bold move, but a move nonetheless that’s required.

Heather McKinnon: And as you said, sometimes we don’t necessarily look at the children. We might just want an adult’s forensic psychiatrist to give a diagnosis on the parents. So only the parents are seen and the family report writer then does the general report. Once they’ve got that diagnosis.

Gabrielle Cantrall: It all comes down to that forensic analysis of the matter and that forensic work about this family, this child, what evidence is there? What views? How can we say what the views of the child are?

Can parents sit in when an ICL meets with their child?

Benjamin Bryant: Like you said before Gabrielle, it’s no family is the same. Not a one size fits all approach. That is the beauty and the peril of family law. And Gabrielle, parents are often worried about a stranger talking to their children about private family relationships. Does an ICL have to meet with a child and can the parents sit in on those meetings?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, I think the first thing Ben I want to acknowledge is that these are private family relationships. However, the fact of the matter is that we are in proceedings, and the court has been asked to make a decision about how arrangements for the children and the family are sorted out. All lawyers are bound by their duty of confidentiality to their client. So, while the ICL is a little bit different in that it sits in a really privileged and very private space in a family, it is a relationship of confidentiality. The meetings are not held with parents. It’s important for parents to talk with their lawyer about any specific issue they might have about the child’s behaviour or anything like that because. Again, a bit of a shout out to the different websites because there’s a lot of information there about why it’s so important that children are able to meet with their ICL, in confidence and in that really quiet space. The parents are involved in the dispute, and you’re asking the child to potentially talk about their views in a matter in front of one of the parties in the dispute, and that is an enormous burden.

Whereas if kids just want to sit down and play some blocks and not tell us a lot, that’s OK, too.  But we haven’t put them in a position where we’ve asked them to verbalise something difficult in front of one of their parents. There’s a really good video on the Best for Kids website about this, and it walks you through an ICL meeting with children and explains what happens with parents as well. And there’s also a video for kids to watch different age groups of kids, and it goes for three or four minutes. It’s pretty short and it shows what ICLs do and what to expect when they meet with the ICL. And as I said before, really important, generally speaking to meet everyone in a sibling group, you can see their dynamic and relationships. And I always say we must never underestimate that siblings are lifelong family. What can we, that is the court, the parties and the ICL, do to make sure these kids will have adult relationships of joy and support? Now that can look like a really big hill to climb in the middle of contested proceedings, but it’s actually really important to keep that in mind.

What if a child has been told what to say to an ICL?

Benjamin Bryant: And of course, Heather. The other side of the coin is when you have the meddling parents creating some influence on their children. How do you cope with this when you feel that the children have been told what to say to you as the ICL?

Heather McKinnon: Well, I suppose what I remember is I’m a lawyer, I’m not a social scientist. So probably the biggest learning that I had as a young lawyer was in a case where there was really high conflict and the children were giving, hugely obvious instructions that they didn’t want to see their dad. When the expert report came in, there was this spotlight that I’ve never forgotten. The child walked into the room and said, “I hate you, daddy, I don’t want anything to do with you”. Jumped onto their dad’s lap, put their hand down his t shirt on his nipple, put their thumb in their mouth and nestled into their dad’s neck. I’ve never forgotten it. It is really critical that people understand lawyers are not social scientists, and what comes out of children’s mouths is only a tiny little bit of what you’re observing about a parental relationship. The warmth and attachment of children with parents is a lot more complex than listening to what they say. So it is really important to keep questions open. So when little ones come into the office, we describe that we’re a lawyer and we’re there to help mum and dad solve decisions. Every kid I’ve ever spoken to knows mum and dad are in conflict. I’ve never seen a kid who didn’t know that their parents were in conflict. But you ask them things like who their favourite teacher is at school. Who knows you at school best than anybody? And they’ll always volunteer their classroom teacher or the school counsellor or someone like that, which gives me the hint when I ring “x” primary school, who do I want to talk to? Because the child themselves will normally have one adult outside their family at school that they trust. So that sort of information’s really useful for me because it allows me to see what their world is like other than from their immediate family.

Heather McKinnon: So the main issue is that the words that come out of their mouth is one part of the puzzle, but it’s not the complete part. You never give promises to the kids, because in those really serious alienation cases, as you know, they will say, I only want to stay with that parent and I’m never going to see the other one again. And they’re very anxious, very highly charged. So, the role that we have is to just allow them to fizzle out, play, get a card so that they can send emails if they’re in, you know, year five, six and older, if they’ve got questions, just to make them feel that there are people that are worried about, not worried, but are helping the problem-solving process. I think that’s our biggest role. That they’re not out there trying to solve it themselves. And I think particularly those children who are parentified, who are taking responsibility for their parents’ dispute and emotions, are kids that we really need to help get the pressure off. And the kids who come in with that very staunch view as to they’re going to get their views known are normally, in my experience, the kids who are right in the dispute and where their emotional world’s reversed and they’re looking after a parent. But we’re not the social scientists. We can’t interpret that information. We can’t, be sure that what we’re told by little ones is the best thing for them. You have to get the whole picture.

Does an ICL keep parents informed?

Benjamin Bryant: Wow Heather. Some powerful examples, so thank you for that. Gabrielle does an ICL keep parents informed about what they are doing and how they represent the child.

Gabrielle Cantrall: This is a long and a short answer, Ben. In short, yes. The ICL communicates with the parties about representation of the child. So, there are lots of technical legal things that happen to communicate. For example, when a subpoena is issued to seek some of those records, that Heather has been talking about earlier today, which flesh out and provide that very broad picture of what the court can see in relation to the child. When we’re choosing an expert or when we’re organising for a family report to be held, these are communications that the ICL is having with the party, like with mum and dad’s lawyers or the parents’ lawyers as the matter goes on. But part of the role of the ICL is to be an honest broker, and a big part of this is communicating the position of the ICL at specific times in the matter. So, I know we haven’t talked a lot about it, but there’s a lot of opportunities for mediation in matters and for the ICL to use those opportunities to really understand where mum and dad are at or where the parents are at, and to be able to explain their view and how they’ve got there is a really important thing. I mean, I don’t want to be flippant. It’s not like a weekly update email, but.. Heather, do you do a weekly update e-mail?

Benjamin Bryant: Imagine.

Gabrielle Cantrall: But the lawyers will be in touch at specific steps in the matter.

What if a parent is unhappy with their child’s lawyer?

Benjamin Bryant: And Gabrielle, what if a parent is unhappy with an ICL? Can they apply to get them replaced?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, it can sometimes be that parents disagree with an ICL when an ICL does not agree with them. It can be really challenging for parents to think that someone who is not a parent of their child and who does not know their child in the way that they do, will be telling the court about what they think is best for the child. So, I want to acknowledge that that’s a challenging space for parents. However, I encourage parents, through their lawyers, to understand why the ICL might be saying a particular thing to the court. There is scope for mediation, which we talked about a moment ago, which is a structured meeting where everyone gets to have a say and this can be all together or in separate bits of discussions depending on the matrix of the family and the things that are going on. This is an important part of the process for the ICL to listen to the parents and for the parents to listen to the ICL. Remember the best interest principles of the legislation: safety first and then the benefit of the meaningful relationship with both parents.

Gabrielle Cantrall:  But if a parent does not think that an ICL has acted appropriately. LegalAid NSW has a feedback email both for our in-house legal aid practitioners and for our panel solicitors. And these email addresses are available on our website. There are other options, which include asking the court to discharge the ICL. If this is the case, you should speak with your lawyer or you should get legal advice and you can get legal advice from Legal Aid New South Wales. If Legal Aid is not the Independent Children’s Lawyer or from our domestic violence unit or our early intervention unit, which are separate from our litigation practise. Lawyers also have an oversight body, the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner. But what I want to finish this question by saying is if you have a disagreement with the ICL or if you think there’s something they’re saying that that you think is unfair, your first port of call is to listen carefully to what the ICL is saying. Then get some really solid legal advice. Talk to your solicitor about the basis for the ICLs view and the evidence that you can bring to support your case.

How does an ICL represent a child in Court?

Benjamin Bryant: Heather, I’m going to ask you this next question how does an ICL actually represent a child in court?

Heather McKinnon: So up until the stage of a hearing, the ICL will normally appear at each court event, so parents will see the ICL.  And usually the judge will just be asking us, How are you going with the subpoenas Ms McKinnon? Are they all back? Have you talked to the schools? So, they’ll be getting a sense of timing, because often the court event will come on quite quickly after the appointment and we haven’t finished our investigations. But when they get to a final hearing, if they’re not able to resolve the matter, the Independent Children’s Lawyer will often have a barrister, as will the parents at that stage. And it’s quite perplexing because parents say, Well, that barrister hasn’t met the kids. So it’s a complex system to understand. But in court, our job in the hearing is to make sure that all of the information that we’ve gathered, that’s important for the judge, is tendered into evidence. So, for example, the children’s school attendance records or the paediatric records of the child that show that one of the parents hasn’t got the child to the appointments and the child’s not getting the treatment they need. So really making sure that all that objective information that we’ve been able to get over the months leading up to the trial is actually given to the judge.

Heather McKinnon: And then at the end of the hearing, the judge is going to ask the Independent Children’s Lawyer: What do you think should happen, Ms McKinnon? What do you think is the best road map for these kids? And will have a conversation with the ICL first, usually so that the parents can hear after a couple of days of evidence what the view of the Independent Children’s Lawyer, so that they’re very much aware of how that’s going to play out with the judge’s decision making. It’s certainly true to say that sometimes judges disagree with the Independent Children’s Lawyer and may not automatically adopt what the Independent Children’s Lawyer thinks is a good idea. But certainly, because we’re the honest broker who is just in it for the kids, what we say in that hearing is very weighty in terms of the judge’s weighing up of what the job ahead of them is. And that is something that has to be really acknowledged by independent children’s lawyer. You can’t slacken off because you’ve been given the role of making sure that there’s a very clear picture of this child presented to the court and don’t go into hearings unprepared. Don’t fail to speak to the schools. Don’t not meet with the kids. It’s an important role and if you’re not up for it, don’t take it on.

What is the role of the ICL at the end of proceedings?

Benjamin Bryant:  Gabrielle, we’ve just done the final hearing. The parties weren’t able to work it out themselves, so the judge has given them an order saying: This is who the kid’s living with. This is who the kid’s spending time with and when. What happens with the ICL then?

Gabrielle Cantrall: Well, we take a deep breath. But our job is not yet quite over. When the matter is finished, the ICL will meet with the children if they are old enough and explain the orders that the court has made to them. It is a really important part of concluding our work in the family, because we’ve been full circle. Sometimes we’ve been in the lives of children for a really long time and we’ve seen significant events, like maybe moving to high school or, different comings and goings in the family matrix. We’ve watched them grow so much. Sometimes, at the very last minute, we’re really pleased that parents have been able to reach an agreement even partway through a hearing. Sometimes it’s that a judge has made an order. And we explain to the children that mum and dad had very different views. They both love you a lot, and they both wanted what they thought was the best thing for you. They’ve asked the judge to decide, and this is what the judge has decided. So it is a nice thing to do to end it.

Benjamin Bryant: I had a great experience a couple of weeks ago, Gabrielle, in an ICL of mine that completed and it completed by consent, the parents reached an agreement in respect to the final parenting arrangements. And so that was my role, essentially is to explain to the children that mum and dad actually agreed to this. This isn’t something that the judge has imposed. So mum and dad both think this is a great idea for you moving forward. They dealt with that news pretty well. When I told them that they wouldn’t see me again, likely unless they were walking past me on the street, they actually got really upset. Which I thought, is because, I’ve developed this really good rapport. But then I thought, perhaps it’s the Skittles and chocolate. I’m not sure.

Gabrielle Cantrall:  I wouldn’t put it down to the Skittles. I would entirely put it down to your skilful advocacy and excellent work.

Goodbye for now…

Benjamin Bryant: Well, what an interesting show. Fortunately, very few families actually have to use an Independent Children’s Lawyer, but this episode is going to be an incredible resource for anyone who does. And thank you, Gabrielle, for being on the show and for your terrific insights.

Gabrielle Cantrall: Oh no problem, Ben. I really enjoyed it.

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather, it’s really great to have you back. As always, you contribute such a wealth and experience and wisdom.

Heather McKinnon: Good to be back, and I really think this episode will be a really good resource for clients.

Benjamin Bryant: Yes, indeed. And that’s it for this month. Next month, we’re going to be talking about successful co-parenting. This has to be one of the biggest challenges for family after a relationship breakdown. How to manage co-parenting in a way that supports the children and fits with both parents’ lives. It’s a toughie, but we never shy from the difficult questions do we Heather?

Heather McKinnon: Never Ben.

Benjamin Bryant: And if you have any specific questions about co-parenting, please send them to familymatters@bryantmckinnon.com.au or message us on Facebook and we’ll provide the answers, or at least opinions, on this show. Links to all resources mentioned on today’s show, which there are a few, will be in the show notes on our website, bryantmckinnon.com.au. And please don’t forget to share this podcast with your friends and family who might need it. Goodbye for now, and we hope you’re listening again next month.


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