HOLLEY FACTORS: The Best Interest of the Child — Texas Supreme Court


The best interest of the child is the Court’s paramount consideration when deciding issues of conservatorship, possession, and access in divorce cases, SAPCR cases, and modification cases.


Generally, to establish a child’s best interest, the Petitioner and Respondent should address—usually by presenting evidence—certain factors the Court can consider when the Court is making orders regarding the child.


Texas Courts have identified a non-exhaustive list of factors that a Court can consider when deciding what is in the child’s best interest:


  • Physical and Emotional Needs: which parent will best provide for the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development now and in the future.


  • Physical and Emotional Danger: whether either parent poses any physical or emotional danger to the child now or in the future.


  • Stability of Home: the stability of each parent’s home.


  • Plans for the Child: each parent’s plans for the child e.g. living arrangement, education, after-school care, extracurricular activities, etc.


  • Cooperation Between Parents: each parent’s ability to give the child first priority and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest.


  • Parenting Skills: each parent’s parenting skills.


  • Primary Caregiver: which parent was the child’s primary caregiver before the case.


  • Child’s Preferences: the child’s communicated wishes. ***this is typically only a considered factor when the children are teenagers.


  • Geographic Proximity: where the parents reside in relation to each other. ***this is only a factor when parents have already separated.


  • Siblings: If divided or split conservatorship is requested, the effect separation would have on the siblings.


  • Promoting Relationships Between the Child and Other Parent: the extent to which each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.


  • False Report of Child Abuse: whether either parent ever knowingly made a false report of child abuse. If the Court finds that a report of child abuse is false or lacking factual foundation, the Court may restrict further access to the child by the parent who made the report.


  • International Child Abduction: the need for measures to protect the child from being internationally abducted to a foreign country.


  • Present Fitness and Recent Past Conduct: each parent’s present fitness to care for the child, and the recent past conduct of each parent, as a reasonable predictor of the parent’s behavior in the future.


  • Drug or Alcohol Abuse: a parent having a drug or alcohol problem. A parent may be denied managing conservatorship based on recent drug or alcohol abuse.


  • Sexual Conduct: a parent’s sexual conduct to the extent that it renders that parent unfit to act as a parent.



The following factors are factors that the Court may not consider when determining the best interest of the child:


  • Gender


  • Race


  • Religion


  • Immigration status


  • Marital status **for modification cases brought post-divorce


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