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What does “best interest” mean in a child custody case?

Texas law requires that judges make child custody decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the child. The judicial system references a previous case in which the judge clearly defined what factors they consider to make up “best interest.” Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a presumption that a child is better off with the mother. Texas would like to give both parents joint custody, but if one of the parents is unfit, then the judge will award sole custody to the other parent.

Physical and emotional needs

Judges will examine each parent’s ability to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child. They look into how often each parent spends time with their child. It’s not just doing fun activities together that matters but taking the time to cook for them, drive them to extracurricular activities and tend to them when they’re sick that is important.

Home stability

Stability of the home environment is a key factor in child custody decisions because it’s essential for healthy development. Children must have their own room and belongings of theirs in the home. The house should be clean and safe as well. Parents must maintain steady employment and pay their bills on time. Another factor of a stable home is sustaining a non-violent atmosphere. Parents who fight often with others, abuse drugs or engage in other dangerous behaviors don’t provide stability.

The child’s preference

It’s illegal for children who are under the age of 18 to choose which parent they live with. However, the judge can take this factor into consideration when they make a decision.

Parenting skills

Judges consider each parent’s parenting skills to ensure that the children have a strong, disciplined adult to raise them well. Examples of parenting skills are communicating efficiently, providing adequate discipline, creating structure, and displaying love and patience.

The best interest of the child comes down to which parent is able to provide the stability and love that they need to grow up well. In many situations, both parents are fit, so they would get joint custody.