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What Defines a Child’s Best Interests in Custody Cases?

When divorcing parents cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements, the family court judge will make determinations that best serve the child’s emotional and physical needs. In other words, the child’s best interests are the priority, and parents will need to demonstrate to the judge how their desired custody arrangement serves those interests.

Texas courts usually favor a custody structure that keeps both parents involved in the child’s life, based on the principle that, absent a dangerous circumstance like domestic violence or drug abuse, children are better off receiving influence from both parents.

A judge may order one of these child custody arrangements:

  • One parent receives sole physical and sole legal custody.
  • One parent has sole physical custody (defining the child’s residence) but both parents share legal custody (the ability to make decisions about education, health care and other essential matters related to the child’s upbringing).
  • Both parents are granted joint physical and joint legal custody.

Judges apply many different factors when making determinations of which type of custody is in the child’s best interests. They include:

  • The child’s physical and emotional needs
  • Each parent’s ability to care for and raise the child
  • Any special needs the child may have and which parent can best meet those needs
  • The stability of each parent’s home
  • How supportive each parent is of the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Which parent is best positioned to help the child achieve in terms of education?
  • Each parent’s ability to recognize the importance of the child’s friendships and socialization
  • The relationship between the child and any siblings or other family members

Courts also consider factors that could have negative consequences for the child. Examples include the past or current substance abuse of a parent and any history of or potential for abuse by a parent.

Before going to court, it is often advisable for parents to work out a parenting plan themselves (with the help of a mediator or their attorneys). If the court agrees that the plan is in the child’s best interests, the court can adopt it and there will be no need for further hearings, which saves both parties time, money and stress.

Parents in North Texas trust Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP to resolve child custody issues every day. With offices in Denton, Flower Mound, and Gainesville, our lawyers are never far away. Call 940-230-2386 or contact us online to arrange a confidential meeting to discuss your custody issue.

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