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How do Texas courts determine your child's best interests during divorce?

 Posted on August 01, 2020 in Child Custody

When a couple gets divorced in Texas and children are involved, courts use a set of factors to decide the child's best interests. These issues address the physical and legal elements of sharing children, known as conservatorship in the Lone Star State.

Judges have wide latitude for determining what is in a child's best interest, and which parent is best suited for primary conservatorship. However, much of their guidance stems from a 1976 lawsuit over terminating parental rights – Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976).

What are the “Holley factors?”

As a result of this precedent-setting case, judges use a list of considerations when determining the best interests of a child in Texas, including:

  • The child's wishes for where they want to live
  • The best environment for the child's current and future emotional and physical needs
  • Whether a parent poses a physical or psychological threat to the child now or in the future
  • The parental and financial abilities of each parent
  • Each parent's plan for the child
  • Each home's stability
  • Whether a parent failed to share relevant information related to the child's well-being
  • Determining whether there was a valid reason for any omissions

While the Holley case was over ending parental rights, courts have used this standard for deciding conservatorship and parenting time.

What evidence is considered?

A parent seeking primary conservatorship should be prepared to provide evidence to the court, such as:

  • Which parent has been performing daily responsibilities, including making meals, helping with homework, laundry or attending parent-teacher conferences
  • Their ability to cooperate with the other parent and encourage the child's continued interactions with both parents
  • Having short-term and long-term parental plans
  • Information on where the child will live and the physical distance from the other parent, school, medical care and different vital needs
  • The child's relationship with step-siblings

What is not considered as evidence?

Conservatorship cases can be extremely contentious, but courts typically frown upon hearing about the other parent's conduct, unless that behavior impacts the well-being of the child. In many cases, that means a spouse's infidelity is not considered relevant.

In addition, courts can’t discriminate against a parent because of their current marital status, race, gender or religion. The life of a child is priceless. If you are considering divorce, an experienced family law attorney will help you attain a conservatorship order that protects you and your child's best interests.

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