Question asked on Aug. 30, 2020

Q: My daughter canes back from her mother’s house angry with me for what seemed like no reason, and in trying to figure out what was wrong, I found out that my child talked to her mother’s lawyer and the lawyer told her that she gets to decide where she lives because she’s 13 and that I’m blocking that. I know that the desire of the child is taken into consideration, but my daughter is emotionally immature and significantly behind in her education, and her reasoning for wishing to live with her mom is because she doesn’t have to school or homework there. My understanding is that the will of the child is one factor in a list of things considered. Is it ethical for her lawyer to have discussed this with my child, or spoken to her about the case at all?

A: Short answer: “no.”  The relevant ethics code (The Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct) are not directly on point, but generally a lawyer should not contact a minor child; the point is clarified in the non-binding, but authoritative “Bounds of Advocacy” published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.  Bound 6.3 states: “When issues in a representation affect the welfare of a minor child, an attorney should not initiate communication with the child, except in the presence of the child’s lawyer or guardian ad litem, with court permission, or as necessary to verify facts in motions and pleadings.”

The official comments add: “Issues affecting a child’s welfare may arise before, during, and after legal proceedings.  There is a risk of harm to the child from an attorney’s contacts and attempts to involve the child in the proceedings.  Advice to or manipulation of the child by a parent’s lawyer has no place in the lawyer’s efforts on behalf of the parent.  Information properly to be obtained from a child regarding the parents and the parents’ disputes should be obtained under circumstances that protect the child’s best interests.”
In Nevada, there is no “magic age.”  The views of a child of “sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to his or her physical custody” is one of many factors; a list of the custodial factors, and an explanation, is posted here.
You should probably discuss the entire situation with an experienced family law specialist, to determine what you should say, and what you should do.