What does “best interest” of a child mean?

If you are going through a divorce or custody dispute in Texas, you will hear the term “best interest”. These two words have a lot of meaning. The Texas Family Code states that “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”

In 1976, the Texas Supreme Court defined “best interest” in a well known case called Holley v. Adams. The Court made a non-exhaustive list of factors that trial courts should consider when determining what is in a child’s best interest. they are:

  1. the desires of the child;
  2. the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
  3. the emotional and physical dangers to the child now and in the future;
  4. the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
  5. the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
  6. the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
  7. the stability of the home or proposed placement;
  8. the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and
  9. any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.

This list is non-exhaustive. In fact, elsewhere in the Texas Family Code there are other “best interest” factors that should be considered for circumstances involving an infant or circumstances involving the removal of a child from the parents home for abuse or neglect.

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