In family law, the “child’s best interest” standard is used by the court to determine child custody and visitation schedules. This standard factors in the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs, and will almost always take priority over the desires of the parents.
How Do Courts in Texas Determine the Child’s Best Interest?
Texas allows its judges to make decisions as they see fit for individual cases. The definition of a “child’s best interest” is vague for a reason, and allows the court to determine what is best for each child that comes through the system. Overall, Texas’s best interest standard must adhere to Texas’ overall public policy when it comes to the well being of the child. The public policy is:
- The child will have frequent and continuous contact with parents who have proven to act in the best interest of the child;
- Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
- Encourage the parents to share in the rights and duties of raising the child.
Some factors that are used to determine the child’s best interest include, but is not limited to:
- The emotional needs of the child;
- The physical needs of the child;
- The ability of each parent to care for the child;
- The environment and stability of each parent’s home; and
- Each parent’s plan for caring for the child.
Are There Other Considerations?
Despite the court’s focus of the best interest standard, overall they wish to adhere to their focus on public policy. This means that there are factors that the court will take into consideration, such as:
- Child’s Preference: Some states allow a child who is old enough to know what is going on, to put in a preference for with whom they wish to live. In Texas, the child must be at least 10 years old, and then she will have to write the court requesting her preference. The child’s wishes are not always granted, because again, the court may find it is in her best interest to live with the other parent.
- Current or Past Abuse and Domestic Violence: Any history, past or current of abuse (including sexual abuse) or domestic violence may preclude a parent from obtaining custody. Any instances of domestic violence, against the child or any relation to the child, within the past 2 years can result in the offending party losing any rights to custody.
Should You Seek Legal Help?
Child custody and visitation rights issues can be emotionally taxing and legally complex. An experienced Texas child custody lawyer can help you determine your best course of action, provide legal guidance, and represent your best interests in court.