When a Texas divorce case involves minor children of the two parties, a court must address such issues as custody, visitation, and support. Since the law generally favors a situation where the child has solid relationships with both parents, joint custody is usually the preferred arrangement. From there, however, the statutes covering custody and visitation can be very complicated. In making a determination, the court is guided by state law on the child’s best interests, which includes different factors related to the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. An experienced Texas divorce attorney can provide more specific details on how the statute applies to your case, but some general information may be useful.
Texas Law on the Child’s Best Interests
Both statutory and case law have been instrumental in developing the child’s best interests standard. The 1976 case of Holley v. Adams was the first to list out nine factors for a court to review in determining whether a custody and visitation arrangement serves the child’s best interests. They are:
- The desires of the child, where appropriate depending on age;
- The child’s current and future physical and emotional needs;
- Whether there is any emotional or physical threat to the child;
- Parental abilities, understanding, and involvement with the child’s needs;
- The presence of programs available to assist the parent and child in meeting developmental needs;
- Each parent’s plans for raising the child;
- The stability of the residential environment where the child will live;
- Any conduct demonstrating that a parent’s relationship with the child is not suitable, proper, or advantageous;
- Any excuses a parent uses to justify certain acts or omissions with respect to the parent-child relationship.
When Courts Consider the Child’s Best Interests
The interests of the child are always a primary consideration in divorce cases regarding custody and visitation, but it is important to understand how the standard applies.
- Agreements on Child Custody and Visitation: Texas law encourages divorcing parents to agree on issues related to minor children, but that does not give the parties complete freedom to decide custody and visitation. A judge will review an agreement to ensure it complies with the child’s best interests standard before signing off.
- Disputes Regarding Care for Minor Children: Where parents cannot agree on visitation, custody, or both, the matter goes before the court in a litigation-style hearing. Parties in dispute can present evidence on how they each meet the child’s best interests test, and the court will issue a decision.
- Domestic Violence Situations: Where there is a history or threat of violence toward the child or one of the parents, a court may apply the child’s best interests standard to deny visitation or custody under #3 above.
Discuss Visitation and Custody with a Knowledgeable Galveston, TX Divorce Lawyer
If you have questions or would like to know more about how the child’s best interests standard applies in your divorce case, please call 281-843-9776 to reach the Galveston, TX offices of Tad Nelson & Associates. We can set up a consultation to review your legal options with a dedicated attorney. You can also check out our website for more information on child visitation and custody in divorce cases.