Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues to arise during your divorce. The courts use the child’s best interests as the principle guiding and informing all such decisions, but what does that really mean? Each individual judge may have his or her own personal definition of what the best interests may be.

Fortunately, the court does not rely solely on personal definitions of a child’s best interest. According to American University, most U.S. states, including Texas, have statutes outlining the best interests of a child, while a handful of states make the determination on the basis of case law. Here is a portion of what Texas state law says about determining a child’s best interests.

Factors involving parents and family

When determining a child’s interests as it relates to custody decisions, Texas statutes require that the court examine any history of substance abuse and/or history of any conduct that is assaultive or abusive in the household. It looks at your state of mental health and considers your parenting skills and ability to meet the child’s basic needs as it relates to safety, health, nutrition, etc. It considers whether the child has access to an adequate support system of family and friends.

Factors involving the child

If the child is at least 12 years of age, the court may take his or her preferences into consideration. Otherwise, the court considers the child’s age and emotional, physical and psychological needs and vulnerabilities. It considers whether the child demonstrates fear at the prospect of a certain living situation and whether he or she has come to harm in the past, and if so, how often.