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How Texas custody law defines the “best interests” of a child

You might have heard that Texas uses the “best interests of the child” standard in child custody matters. Courts are directed to make the best interest of the child the most important consideration. It’s a concept that is both simple and difficult to define. As a parent, you naturally want what is best for your kids. But your co-parent may have very different ideas about what sort of custody arrangement would be in the children’s best interests.

Nine factors suggested by the Texas Supreme Court

In a decision called Holley v. Adams, the Texas Supreme Court provided guidance on what kinds of evidence family court judges should consider when parents cannot work out a child custody plan on their own. The Court listed nine factors:

  • The child’s desires, if they are old enough to express their preferences
  • The child’s physical and emotional needs, both now and in the future
  • Any potential emotional or physical danger the child might be facing (i.e., abuse)
  • The parenting ability of each parent seeking custody
  • Programs available to assist each parent
  • Each parent’s plans for the child
  • The stability of each parent’s home for the child to live in
  • Any acts or omissions by one or both parents that suggest their parent-child relationship is improper
  • Any excuses for those acts or omissions, if given

If their child custody dispute goes to trial, parents will present evidence to the judge to support their claim. Evidence can include testimony that the child is closer to them than their other parent, that the other parent’s home is far away from the child’s school and friends, which parent has the higher income, and so on. The outcome of these cases tends to depend heavily on each family’s individual situations. The parents’ attorneys help them make the best possible case that they should receive custody.

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