Child custody (or “conservatorship,” as it’s called in Texas) can be a difficult and time-consuming process. There are multiple decisions to make after the parents split, including where the child can live, and with which parent. But everything that the court decides and awards is based on one question.
What is in the best interest of the child?
The Child’s Best Interest
This is where the court evaluates all the factors involved in the child’s current and future best interest. These factors include:
- The current and future physical and emotional
- Any concerns of danger to the child, current and future
- Stability in the home
- Each parents’ plans and goals for the child
- Each parent’s goals for the child
- The child’s own wishes
- Available programs assisting parents to uphold the best interest of the child
- History and/or evidence of any domestic violence
- Any reports of child abuse, as well as reports from a parent
- Fabricated reports of child abuse from either parent
- Omissions or acts by a parent representing that the existing parent-child relationship may be inappropriate
How Custody Is Decided In Texas
The court will examine the aforementioned factors as well as ask specific questions about the child’s care and upbringing up to this point. These are just some of the questions the court may ask to determine a custody arrangement.
- Who provided food, clothing, shelter and other means of support?
- Who took the child to and from school and helped with schoolwork?
- Who helped the child participate in extracurricular activities?
- Who met with the child’s teachers and attended school events?
- Who provided medical care? Who scheduled the appointments and took the child to the doctor?
Texas Family Code Sec. 153.004 prohibits joint custody if there is any history or evidence of neglect or abuse (physical or sexual) against another parent, a spouse or a child.
Can A Child Choose The Preferred Parent?
Not exactly. What is true is that after the age of 12, a child can make a request to the judge about what parent they prefer to live with. However, the judge does not have to interview the child, grant the child’s request, nor use the request for the sole basis of the conservatorship decision.
The child will have to appear in court (or possibly testify at trial) and tell a judge in person who they want to live with. This interview is at the judge’s discretion. Texas Family Code Sec. 153.009(a) requires a judge in a hear or non-jury trial to interview the child 12 or over in chambers.
The judge will then evaluate all the facts in the case to determine what’s best for the child, and ask questions about why the child prefers one parent over another. Is the other parent more lenient, or strict? Is there abuse or danger from one parent? Ultimately, it’s up to the court to rule on the custodial arrangements—not the child.
A Compassionate Attorney For Your Family Law Needs
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with child custody issues. As a divorcee herself, Wendy understands the process as well as the difficulties involved. We represent both for men and women. We’ll make sure you’re treated fairly and will protect your interests and your children.
Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336. We’re ready to help.