Updated: 2021-09-23 by
Texas courts use the "best interest of the child" standard to make child custody decisions. Specifically, judges refer to Section 153.002 of the Texas Family Code which says:
The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.
How Texas Judges Make Child Custody Decisions
The specific factors judges use to determine the best interest of the child are often known as the "Holley Factors." That's because they were set out in the Texas Supreme Court's decision in the 1976 case, Holley v. Adams. These factors include:
- the desires of the child
- the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
- the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future
- the parenting abilities of the individuals seeking custody
- the programs available to assist those individuals to promote the best interest of the child
- the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody
- the stability of the home or proposed placement
- the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one, and
- any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.
The court specifically stated that this is not an exhaustive list of considerations. Family law judges have a lot of flexibility when making custody determinations, but the Holley Factors can give you a good idea of what the court will consider important when deciding your custody case.
Court Should be Your Last Resort
Going to court to get custody of a child will be stressful for you and, worse, tough on the children. Also, because judges have so much flexibility to make custody decisions, it leaves the family vulnerable to the biased opinions of individual judges. For these reasons and more, a court case is something to pursue only if all other options—like negotiation and mediation—have failed. Take advantage of all the resources available to you for creating a parenting plan before subjecting yourself and your kids to a court battle.
Working with a lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer, mediator, or both, ask them for help understanding how Texas family law applies to your specific circumstances.
Finding your local family court. In Texas, family law cases are handled in the county district courts. Be sure to take advantage of any resources your court offers.
Other self-help resources. If you need help finding your way around the family court system or if you need legal help and can't afford a lawyer, the following well-regarded Texas nonprofits can point you in the right direction.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in Texas, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in Texas so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.
Answers to common questions about Texas custody enforcement, including whether police will enforce a custody order.