WHAT DOES THE “BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD” MEAN IN TEXAS CHILD CUSTODY CASES?
The “best interest of the child” is the guiding principle in Texas child custody determinations. The best interest of the child calls for the development of an appropriate parenting plan which reflects the child’s physical and psychological development.
The modern legal standard of the best interest of the child is subjective and indeterminate. A court’s discretion is surrounded by two very vague legal principles: “Their decisions must be in the best interests of children and must give effect to the legal rights of non-custodial parents to form or maintain relationships with children.”
Not surprisingly, the best interest of the child standard has been widely criticized as giving too much deference to the subjective values of the judge, which may be influenced by the judge’s age, social standing, and family situation, among other factors. In essence, the judge has the last voice in determining what is best for the child when parents can’t get along and come to an agreement.
- The factors to be considered include:
- The desires of the child;
- The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
- The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;
- The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
- The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
- The plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
- The stability of the home or proposed placement;
- The acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and
- Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.
While the above list is not exhaustive, it provides a number of considerations which either have been or would appear to be important issues when determine child conservatorship and possession and access. The ideal best interest standard is best served when considering the unique and individualized needs of each child and their circumstances.