In cases where children are showing unhealthy levels of alignment or enmeshment with one parent, or rejection of the other parent, the practice of vetting the independence of children’s views and preferences is again without consistent
standards and training. Children’s counsel may not have a robust and up-to-date understanding of the extent of children’s suggestibility and risk of manipulation in the course of a contested custody dispute.
In more extreme cases of family dysfunction, issues arise as to whether counsel can actually assess whether the child has sufficient capacity to instruct counsel on issues involving the child’s parents. A child can be competent in many domains but
not competent to give independent instructions to counsel on issues involving the parents’ litigation.
A child’s strong preference for one parent may actually be a function of an unhealthy
enmeshment or parentification (role-reversal) relationship, rather than a healthy relationship.
Psychologists and psychiatrists would generally be much more cognizant of this dynamic than an attorney might be.