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Parents: What you should know about the ‘best interests of the child’

Dec 28, 2020 | Child Custody

Just about any parent going through a custody or visitation dispute wants a resolution that best protects their child.

However, parents can have conflicting opinions about what is best for their child, which can make it very difficult to resolve issues. As such, it can be critical for parents to understand what the law says regarding a child’s best interests and how the courts might handle these matters.

Court’s perception of best interests

Texas laws provide direction on what is in the best interests of a child. Generally, the courts presume that it is in a child’s best interest to be in a safe and stable arrangement as quickly as possible.

When both parents can and will provide this environment, the courts look at other factors.

  • What is the child’s preference (if he or she is old enough to have a well-reasoned opinion)?
  • Which parent can best meet the physical and emotional needs of the child?
  • Does either parent present a threat to a child’s safety?
  • Do parents understand the child’s needs, and will they be involved in filling those needs?
  • What does the existing relationship between the child and each parent look like?

These and other relevant factors will influence a court’s decision.

Parental opinion versus the court’s opinion

The factors that the courts consider can be very similar to those that parents contemplate. However, there are areas where parental opinion and court opinion diverge.

For example, in general, character flaws or romantic indiscretions will not affect a court’s decision. Just because a person was not a good partner does not mean he or she is not a good parent. And no person is perfect, so parents who attempt to tarnish their ex’s opinion by making false allegations or launching personal attacks on the other person may do little more than hurt their own image.

Further, no one knows your situation better than you do. You may know things about your schedule, your ex’s habits or your child’s life that the courts do not, which can give you different perspectives on what is best for your child.

Finally, parents should know that going to court for custody cases can be unpredictable. While it may be necessary in some cases, parents often retain more control over the situation if they resolve their custody and visitation dispute outside of court.