Monthly Archives: March 2013

March 15, 2013

“Best Interest of the Child” Standard: What Does It Really Mean?

If you are a party to a family law suit where a child is involved, such as a divorce or modification of a parent-child relationship, you have likely constantly heard the term “best interest of the child.”  Section 153.002 of the Texas Family Code states “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.”

It is the platinum standard in all family law actions involving a child, but what does it really mean?

I frequently encounter a party to a family lawsuit who is frustrated with the legal process because what he or she thinks is in the best interest of the child is not what the court says is in the best interest of the child. What that party fails to understand is the end goal, if you will, of Texas family law courts.  The courts strive to assure the child has frequent and continued contact with both parents, is in a safe, stable, non-violent environment, and that both parents are encouraged to share in child-rearing responsibilities.

What does this translate to for a person involved in a family law suit?  In a nutshell it means that the court will prefer minimal contact between a parent, who may even be seen as less-than-desirable, and a child over no contact as long as the child is not in an environment where there is a possibility of suffering harm or injury.  Moreover, regardless if a non-custodial parent has paid the ordered child support, he or she retains their right of access and possession to the child.  If you are the custodial parent, it is not wise to directly or indirectly deny the non-custodial parent time with the child because they have not paid support – Texas courts do not view such behavior kindly.

Family law actions involving children are rarely easy and often evoke much emotion.  They tend to highlight the differences in parenting styles.  However, as challenging as it may seem, try to keep in mind that the courts aim to do what is best for the child.   And what Texas family courts view as best for the child is to have the opportunity to know both parents in a safe, stable, and non-violent environment, and for both parents to have the opportunity to raise the child.