When dealing with a child custody matter, we understand you may feel stress, uncertainty, and many other painful emotions. You might have heard that Texas uses the “best interest of the child” standard in handling conservatorship cases. But what does that mean?
As a parent, you naturally want what is best for your child. However, your definition of what is in your child’s best interests is likely different from that of your ex-partner. So how does the court determine the best interests of a child? Below, our North Texas child custody lawyers explain what it means and the factors that family courts consider when deciding child custody matters.
What Is the Definition of “Best Interest of the Child”?
The term “best interest of the child” is a legal standard indicating that the family courts should place a child’s best interest at the center of any legal decisions involving children. Under Texas Family Code Section 153.002, the best interest of the child must be the primary consideration that courts use to determine child custody matters.
However, while it is a court’s primary consideration, there is no standard or precise definition of best interest. Instead, a family judge may consider many factors to determine a child’s best interests. However, the goal is always the same – to create a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interest and promotes their safety, health, and overall well-being. Our North Texas child custody attorneys discuss examples of determining factors below.
What Factors Does the Court Consider in Determining the Best Interest of a Child?
Every child custody case has its own set of unique circumstances. Texas family courts know that every family situation is different and every child has individual needs. Because of this, the court evaluates and weighs a variety of factors when making custody decisions.
Texas law does not lay out a standard set of factors that courts must consider. However, applicable sections of statutory law and case law provide judges with some guiding principles in making decisions to serve the best interests of a child.
For example, courts often use the best interest factors assessed in the 1976 Texas Supreme Court case Holley v. Adams as guidelines. The following guidelines have become known as the Holley factors:
- Desires of the child. If the child is old enough to express a preference (12 years or older in Texas), the court may consider the child’s wishes. However, the court will also consider whether the child’s preference is in their best interest.
- Emotional and physical needs of the child. The court will evaluate a child’s emotional and physical needs now and in the future. This point is broad and may be interpreted as a child’s need for support, guidance, and physical needs like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education. It may also include assessing the child’s current bond with each parent and other family members, such as siblings and grandparents. How would the court’s decision affect these relationships?
- Emotional and physical danger to the child. The court will assess the child’s safety and any presence of danger now and in the future, such as abuse or neglect. Section 153.004 of the Texas Family Code also states that the court must consider any history or pattern of domestic violence or sexual abuse in its decisions.
- Parental abilities of the parties seeking custody. The court may assess each party’s ability to provide for the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. The court may evaluate each parent’s income, living situation, and other resources. Additionally, the court may assess each parent’s mental health and physical ability to support the child.
- Available programs to assist the parties seeking custody. The court may evaluate any programs each party can access to help them or the child.
- Plans for the child by the parties seeking custody. The court may consider each party’s plans for the child if seeking sole custody.
- Stability of the home or proposed placement. The court may assess each parent’s living situation. Is the home environment clean and safe? Are there other children or family members living at home? Is there a stable routine and structure in place? These are questions the court may consider.
- Acts or omissions of the parent. The court may consider any behavior or failure to act by a party that may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is improper.
- Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. The court may also consider any reasons a party gives why the behavior or failure to act is not harmful to the child.
The above list of factors is not mandatory for courts to use or exhaustive. Additionally, it may not apply to every case. Courts have the discretion to look at and consider any relevant factors on a case-by-case basis.
Do a Parent’s Wishes Affect a Child Custody Decision?
The court does not consider a parent’s wishes when making custody decisions. The court’s objective is to determine the best custody arrangement for the child that promotes their long-term well-being, health, and safety.
However, going through the court to determine child custody is not your only option. If you and your ex-partner can agree on a custody plan, you do not have to rely on the family court to decide custody matters. The court gets involved when you are unable to agree on a child custody plan.
Contact Our North Texas Child Custody Lawyers Today
Our family law attorneys understand how scary and emotional it can be to face child custody matters. At Warren & Migliaccio, we can be your trusted legal advocates, here to guide and advise you through the legal process.
Our priority is the best interests of you and your family, and we aim to help reach the best possible outcome for your situation. We do that by listening and working with our clients to develop a legal strategy that works for them.
We welcome you to contact our law firm to schedule a consultation about your situation. During a consultation, we can answer your legal questions and discuss your legal options. We can also determine how we can help you.