Lawyers and judges in Texas often point out that in child custody cases they attempt to follow a "best interests of the child" approach, which is part of the Texas Family Code.
However, since many child custody proceedings get sorted out in mediation, it is not always clear what courts mean by "best interests of the child" in Texas.
A recent Texas Supreme Court involving a military father named Ron LaFond and his ex-wife Stephanie Pearson, reported by the Southeast Texas Record, sheds light on what kind of things Texas courts look at when defining "the best interests of the child."
Ron LaFond and Stephanie Pearson divorced in 2001, at which point their son began living with his mother. As he grew older, however, the son moved through ten different schools, wore red, and started making gang-signs and doing gang graffiti on his mother’s house.
At this point, Stephanie Pearson sent her son to stay with his military father in Norway, where the son attended a private school. The son’s behavior seemed to improve overseas and his teachers said he grew in leaps and bounds, reports the Record. The son also made better grades.
As a result of this evidence, the lower court had ruled in favor of the father, Ron LaFond. However, since his ex-wife Stephanie Pearson appealed, the case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court. The highest court in Texas agreed with the lower court, pointing out that, “the trial court has wide latitude in determining the child’s best interest.”
This might seem like a straight-forward case about the courts simply recognizing the obvious. However, given all the child custody myths and rumors floating around, such cases are helpful in better understanding how courts make decisions about child custody.
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