Top Factors in Deciding Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, the one primary concern in determining custody is the “best interest” of the child or children. Who would be the best choice for custodial parent, and what arrangements and living situation would be best for the child? Of course, every family situation is unique, as are the needs of each child, and family courts in Texas want to have the fullest picture possible when considering child custody cases. A judge will study each case, weigh all factors, determine what would be in the child’s best interest, and render that decision.
Texas courts do not consider some points—such as a parent’s marital status, gender, religion, or race—in determining custody. Nor are they concerned with marital infidelity, as long as the infidelity has not caused the child harm.
The following factors are the most crucial in Texas child custody cases. While all of them will likely be considered by the court, no single one is more important than another. Judges will use them—along with any other pertinent points—to make a determination that will serve the best interests of the child.
To make sure you’re doing all you can to get the outcome you desire in your child’s custody case, contact the Austin child custody attorneys of Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. at (210) 349-9933 today.
The Child’s Needs and Development—Physical and Emotional
Does the proposed custodial parent understand the child’s needs and have the ability to provide them, both now and over time? Can the parent furnish opportunities for the child’s intellectual and social development? Will they be able to feed, clothe, and house the child? Will they be able to provide medical and dental care? Will the household be a loving and safe place in which the child will have the comfort and support they will need to grow up physically, socially, and emotionally healthy?
The Wishes of the Child
What does the child want? Provided the court finds that they are old enough and mature enough, the judge will consider the child’s desires concerning custody and other arrangements. Does the child want to live with one parent more than another? Spend equal time in both households? Does the child have strong feelings about living or not living with specific siblings? While some children may simply be too young, Texas judges will usually give weight to the wishes of a child who can plainly express what they want.
How well does the parent understand the essentials of raising a child? Do they have a good grasp of their child’s developmental needs? How involved have they been in their child’s education? Have they communicated well and consistently with teachers or caregivers? How willing and likely are they to cooperate with the other parent? A willingness to overcome differences with an ex-spouse shows the court that a parent has a solid appreciation for the child’s best interests.
Parents are seldom perfect, of course, and judges realize this. Still, the courts are wary of a parent with an inconsistent earning history, mental or physical health problems, or substance abuse issues. Even though they may not be fully responsible for their own problems, Texas courts will consider the child’s interests to be primary, and those problematic factors will likely weigh against that parent.
Programs Available to Assist Parents
Does the parent have access to programs or assistance that will aid them in providing a secure and stable environment for the child? Government, non-profits, and community groups offer many such programs and resources. If such assistance is available and a parent is eligible, the court would look more favorably on their ability to see to the child’s best interests.
Physical and Emotional Safety
Is the child in any immediate physical or emotional danger, or would there be a likelihood of future danger in the household of either parent? The court will want to know about any history of abuse by either parent and about any instances of domestic violence. Serving the best interests of a child starts with ensuring that they live in a home free from threats of physical harm and emotional trauma.
Plans for the Child
Both parents should be ready to explain the plans each has for the child, both immediate and long-term. What will child care or school look like? Does the parent have ideas on how to support and encourage the child’s social and after-school activities as they get older? Does the parent have a financial plan if the child wants to attend college? Essentially, has the parent thoughtfully considered and planned for the primary challenges of child-rearing as a single parent?
The Stability of Both Potential Homes
How stable and secure are the households of both parents? Is one more settled and desirable than the other? Is this the same home in which the child has been living, or will it be new for them? How long has the parent been in the home? Will there be siblings, other relatives, or roommates living there? Would the child have a room of their own?
What are the incomes of the parents, and how stable is the work situation of each? Is the dwelling owned, leased, rented, or occupied through other arrangements? In the court’s eyes, a home environment the child does not have to worry about is usually better than one that feels inconsistent or unstable to the child.
Actions or Omissions That Demonstrate an Improper Parent-Child Relationship
One parent may present evidence that the other parent, by a specific action or a failure to act, has not maintained a proper parent-child relationship. Such instances can include child neglect but may also cover a wide range of actions and responsibilities. The accused parent has the right to offer an excuse or explanation for the action or omission.
In matters of law, family situations can be complex and stressful. At Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P., we specialize in family law in Texas, including child custody cases. With representation by experienced, compassionate lawyers, your chances for a favorable outcome are greater, and you’ll spend less time worrying about what may happen next.
Let our experienced legal team guide you through every step of the process, providing you with superior legal representation and a compassionate understanding of what you and your loved ones are going through.
Contact us today at (210) 349-9933, and let us get to work for you.