What Does “Best Interests of the Child” Mean?

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The phrase “best interests of the child” is used throughout Texas family law. This standard is used to determine custody, child support, access, medical treatment, modifications of custody, and even whether to grant a name change. But, what does “best interests of the child” actually mean?

In short, when Texas family law judges make a determination about a child, the judge is making a determination about who can better serve the child’s interests. Instead of putting a definition to the phrase, the Texas Supreme Court has put together a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider when deciding what is in the child’s best interest. These factors generally include:

Caring for the child

-Which party will best provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs?

-Which party provides the more stable home environment?

-Do any of the parties lack parenting skills or make poor parenting decisions?

-Do either of the parties refuse to cooperate with the other parent?

Maintaining family relationships

-What is the child’s preference on custody?

-Where will the child have closer proximity to other family members?

-Will the child be separated from siblings?

Parental fitness

-Which of the parties is better suited to be the primary conservator for the child?

-Does any party have drug or alcohol problems?

-Does any party engage in sexual contact that renders him or her unfit to act as parent?

This is not an exhaustive list of the items a court can consider when determining the best interests of the child. Ultimately, the court will consider each of these items and any other permissible concern in order to protect the child. Your Texas family lawyer will be required to put forth evidence that presents you in the best light.

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