The legal standard used in nearly every court action involving children, “best interest of the child,” has no standard definition or consistent guidance on how the standard should be applied, according to new research from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The research, “’The Best Interest of the Child’: Texas and Beyond,” details the confusing patchwork of factors courts weigh in best interest decisions, rather than a consistent legal standard.

“The lack of a clear legal standard jeopardizes the constitutional rights of parents and children and leaves the fate of each relationship to subjective decision-making, resulting in confusing and inconsistent decisions,” said Andrew Brown, associate vice president of policy for TPPF. “Our research details legislative reforms that Texas can pursue to implement a clear legal standard for ‘best interest of the child,’ ensuring that there are less inequitable legal outcomes in the future.”

Key Points

  • The “best interest of the child” is a legal standard applied in nearly every court action involving children.
  • Despite its importance, there is no standard definition or consistent guidance on how the best interest standard is applied.
  • In the absence of such guidance, Texas statutory and case law have combined to create a confusing patchwork of factors for courts to apply in best interest decisions.
  • Ambiguity in the best interest of the child standard jeopardizes the fundamental right parents and children are guaranteed in their relationship with one another.

To read the full paper, please click here.