What Does A Child’s Best Interest Mean?


By Cassandra Daniels | February 7, 2023

If you’re a parent with children living in Texas and preparing to file for divorce, you may ask, “what does a child’s best interest mean?”

It’s a common term used in many child custody cases, and you’ve probably heard it being said on TV and in the news. But what exactly does it mean?

When you’re a couple with children going through a divorce in Texas, you will be expected to come to an agreement regarding child custody. This isn’t always an easy action for divorcing parents to take, but it must be done better to ensure your child’s or your children’s future.

Talk to Daniels Law Firm to hire a divorce attorney in Houston.

An Accurate Guide & Best Interest Of The Child Checklist For Parents In Texas

Texas courts have 3 reasons for defining who should and shouldn’t have routine access to a child’s life. The court will prioritize the child’s well-being in their case and consider whether their parents or guardians do the following:

Behavioral actions speak volumes. Show the ability to act in the child’s best interest.

A safe and healthy environment is key. Offer a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment.

Child care comes first. Work with the other parent to share in the rights and duties of raising their child, even if they are divorced or separated.

Before you file for divorce, keep in mind the above parameters. Because regardless of how you feel about your spouse, the best interest of your child(ren) should come first when thinking about moving forward.

Need help with your divorce and/or child custody terms? Contact Daniels Law Firm.

9 Factors Regarding A Child’s Best Interest In Texas Court

The 9 factors that a Texas court will think about when making decisions for child custody cases are also known as “Holley factors” and include the child’s:

  • Desires
  • Emotional and physical needs
  • Any emotional and physical dangers
  • Parental abilities of each individual seeking custody
  • Programs made to assist individuals 
  • Plans for the child or by the agency seeking custody
  • Home stability or proposed environment
  • Acts or omissions of the parent 
  • Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent 

RELATED: Attorney Cassandra Daniels Explains…Top 3 Child Custody And Support Mistakes

1. Desires

This first guideline typically brings up the question…Can my child choose which parent to live with?

The answer, in short, is no. In Texas, the law allows a judge to interview a child 12 years or older to gain their opinions, desires, and wishes, which may include who they prefer to live with. But simply naming one parent over another is not enough to be a deciding factor. In addition to their age, a judge will consider any mental and physical vulnerabilities.

2. Emotional & Physical Needs

The child’s emotional and physical needs now and in the future will be taken into consideration. This will include the frequency and nature of out-of-home placements.

3. Any Emotional & Physical Dangers

The court will consider the frequency, severity, and particulars of any dangers for the child now and in the future. Aside from potential abuse and/or history of abuse from either parent, this parameter may include psychiatric, psychological, or even developmental evaluations of the child and anyone else with access to the child’s home. The court may also consider any substance use and/or abuse.

4. Parental Abilities Of Each Individual Seeking Custody

A parent should be able to provide the following necessary essentials:

  • Basic and acceptable health and nutritional care
  • Care, nurturance, and appropriate discipline
  • Guidance and supervision that prioritizes the child’s safety
  • Safe home environment
  • Protection from repeated exposure to violence
  • General understanding of the child’s needs and capabilities

Providing your child with an adequate social support system might also be one of many determining factors in your child custody case.

5. Programs Made To Assist Individuals 

Parenting classes, parenting programs, counseling, and cooperation with relevant organizations regarding your child’s care may also be taken into account by a judge.

6. Plans For The Child Or By The Agency Seeking Custody

Plans regarding the child should reflect a willingness and ability to impose positive environmental and personal changes within a reasonable amount of time. This might include which school they go to, what activities they will be involved in, etc.

7. Home Stability Or Proposed Environment

Whether you plan on keeping the child at your home or moving elsewhere, the court will take into account the living situation that the child will be in regularly.

8. Acts Or Omissions Of The Parent 

Each parent may speak on the opposing parent-child relationship to convey whether it is or is not deemed a proper one for that child.

9. Any Excuse For The Acts Or Omissions Of The Parent 

This last parameter allows each individual seeking custody to explain specific actions or omissions presented to be considered in making the final decision.

Remember, while each child custody case is unique, these 9 Holley factors will likely guide judges throughout their decision-making process.

Holley Factors History

These 9 considerations are nonexhaustive parameters that stem from a 1976 court case best known as Holley v. Adams. 

In this case, the father of the child in question motioned to terminate the relationship between his son and ex-wife, who is also the child’s biological mother, Nanci Adams Holley.

Initially, the Texas court decided to terminate the child-parent relationship based on Holley’s ”conduct and virtual abandonment of the minor child”. Holley’s actions generally included:

  • Getting arrested in 1969 for a traffic offense
  • Being committed by her mother to Austin State Hospital for less than two months
  • Her behavior while traveling to Seattle
  • Her second divorce
  • Voluntarily declaring bankruptcy

However, without clear rules of what a child’s best interest is by the court, there was no evidence proving that terminating the child-parent relationship was the right move to make. 

The court eventually created a list of 9 factors needed to consider what a child’s best interests mean. The court overturned the original ruling of Holley’s terminated parental rights because none of her actions were evidence of her emotionally or physically endangering her child.

Are You A Parent Preparing To File For Divorce In Texas?

Hiring a divorce attorney who knows Texas family law is one of the best ways to achieve a win for your case. Not only can an experienced attorney help you with your divorce, but they should also be able to give legal advice for your child custody terms.

You don’t need to go through your divorce alone. Contact Daniels Law Firm today.

The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Daniels Law Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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