Best Interest and “Holley Factors” in Child Custody Cases

When a court has to make a decision regarding the custody of a child, whether it be for a divorce, a termination, or an adoption, the court must always look at the best interest of the child.

The best interest factors in Texas, otherwise known as the “Holley Factors,” come from the 1976 case: Holley V. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976). This was a termination case. In their divorce, David was granted custody of his son and Nanci was named managing conservator, but was not ordered to pay child support. The trial court terminated the relationship between Nanci Holley and her son. The court of appeals affirmed.

During the trial, David testified that he brough the termination suit because if he had died, he thought it would be better for his wife (the child’s stepmother) to raise the child rather than Nanci (the biological mother).

The Court concluded that there was not significant evidence supporting any termination grounds, and further, that termination was not in the best interests of the child.

This case is extremely significant because it analyses the “best interest” standard in Texas.

While the list is not exhaustive, a judge will typically first look at the following nine Holley Factors when determining what is in the best interest of a child:

  • The desires of the child
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
  • The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future
  • The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
  • The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child
  • The plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody
  • The stability of the home or proposed placement
  • The acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one
  • Any excuse for the acts or omissions of a parent