What is SAPCR?
In Texas, when we want a Court to enter an order to address the needs of a child, the lawsuit is called Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). If there is a pending divorce then a separate suit may not be necessary and the SAPCR is automatically included. However, absent a pending divorce a SAPCR is what is typically used.
If there is any question regarding the legal relationship between parent and child, such as the determination of custody, duties, rights, and visitations (among other things) for a child, a SAPCR needs to be filed with the Court. Most commonly A SAPCR is used either when parents were never married and there is a custody disagreement, or to modify an existing custody agreement (typically a previous SAPCR or divorce decree) due to any material change in circumstances. The courts understand the needs and abilities of parents and children change over time. That is why courts allow for custody agreements to be modified through SAPCRs
What should I do when trying to file a SAPCR?
First thing to do is hire an attorney. SAPCR is a difficult process and there may be various aspects that, if you do not have an attorney, will leave you lost and floundering. However, these are some basics of a SAPCR.
In divorce cases, if you have children, a SAPCR is automatically included. At the conclusion of your divorce, SAPCR is concluded as well; however that does not mean SAPCR is absolutely done. The Court that signs the final order is the Court that has continuing jurisdiction, which means that if there is any reason that you need to modify the SAPCR (such as when trying to change visitation schedules, etc.), the Modification case will need to be filed in the Court that you were in previously.
Who can file a SAPCR?
The Texas Family Code specifies who can bring a SAPCR (we call this “standing”). These are examples of some of the people who have standing: (1) parents (whether married or not); (2) a child (through a representative authorized by the Court, i.e. guardian or amicus attorney); (3) a custodian or person who has the right of visitation with or access to the child appointed by an order of a court of another state or country; (4) any person, other than foster parent or step-parent, who has the actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months (as long as the 6 month period ended not more than 90 days before the date of the filing of the SAPCR); (5) a person whom the child and the child’s guarding, managing conservator, or parent have resided for at least 6 months prior to the time the SAPCR was filed (this criteria can give standing to step-parent); and (6) foster parents have standing only if the child has been placed in their home for at least 12 months (ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the SAPCR).
As you can see, SAPCR is a complicated delicate process and there are many aspects that must be considered with care. Should you or anyone you know need help in changing their parental rights or modifying their custody, please contact us!