Best Interest Test – The Holley Factors

Every Texas statute and every court decision regarding children is focused on one key consideration: What is the best interest of the child? This term is used persistently, but often without a lot of clarity. Parents new to family law litigation assume attorneys and judges automatically intuit the meaning of “best interest” without any formal definition. In fact, in 1976, the Texas Supreme Court set forth a litany of factors that should be considered when determining the best interest of the child. Judges and attorneys habitually turn to these factors when preparing for a child custody case.

In Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976), the Texas Supreme Court consolidated several factors that had been used in prior court opinions regarding the child’s best interest, to create a comprehensive list known today as the Holley Factors. These factors include:

  1. Desires of the child;
  2. Emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
  3. Emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;
  4. Parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
  5. Programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
  6. Plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
  7. Stability of the home or proposed placement;
  8. Acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a property one;
  9. Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.

Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 372 (Tex. 1976).