Divorces are emotional processes, especially when children are involved. A suit affecting the parent-child relationship or a SAPCR is an essential part of a divorce that involves children. It is meant to establish the best environment possible for the child or children of the parents who are getting a divorce. The following are eight important things to know about a SAPCR in Texas.
What is a SAPCR?
Under Texas family law, a SAPCR is automatically applied to a divorce filing when the divorce involves a child or multiple children. It begins with a petition filed in family court that requests that the judge issue orders regarding child custody, visitation rights, child support, and/or medical support from a parent. If married parents have separated and the need arises to define conservatorship for the child or children involved in the separation, a SAPCR can be filed. A SAPCR can also be filed when the parents of a child or children are not married to each other and there is a need to legally establish or “adjudicate” the parent-child relationship for the children and their parents. SAPCR petitions can only affect children and are not used to address any other legal matters between two adults outside of the needs of the child or children.
Who Can File a SAPCR?
The child or children’s parents are typically the parties who file a SAPCR. Some other adults are able to file SAPCR petitions, including:
- A foster parent to the child or children who has been involved in their care for at last one year prior to filing the SAPCR.
- An individual who has cared for the child or children for the six months prior to filing the SAPCR but is not a foster parent.
- An individual who is deemed the legal guardian or conservator of the child or children for the six months prior to filing the SAPCR and the parent, legal guardian, or conservator has passed away.
- An individual who is the child or children’s sibling, grandparent, great-grandparent, uncle/aunt, niece/nephew, or other close family member if the child’s parents have passed away.
Can I File a SAPCR in Texas?
If the child has lived in Texas for at least the last six months, or since birth, or Texas was the child’s home state and they have only been gone for less than six months, you can file a SAPCR case in Texas according to Texas Family Code 152.201. If you are filing your SAPCR case in Texas, you must do so in the county where the child currently lives. If the other parent involved does not live in Texas, you can still file your SAPCR here if your child lives here.
What Can a SAPCR Do?
The decision to file a SAPCR can be made for a variety of reasons, all of which center around the wellbeing of the child or children involved. They are useful tools that legally outline the rights and duties of both parents and are used to make legal matters, including child support, visitation schedules, treatment of medical issues, and more, very clear cut and defined. The health and upbringing of a child are central to any divorce that involves children and must be prioritized. A SAPCR makes sure that all details of the child’s upbringing are taken care of.
What Happens Once a SAPCR Is Filed?
Once a SAPCR is filed in family court, that court will have continuing jurisdiction. The contents outlined in the SAPCR and other court orders will remain legally binding unless a petition is filed to update their terms. As the child or children get older, there may be updates or modifications needed. Any changes must be filed in the court of continuing jurisdiction. The new petition would then be referred to as a Suit Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship or SMPCR.
What is decided in a SAPCR case?
A judge in a SAPCR case will make custody, visitation, child support, and medical support orders. The judge is always looking out for the child’s best interests. Custody, also known as “conservatorship” in Texas, is the legally defined relationship between the parents and their child or children. Custody will be determined during a SAPCR case. Visitation orders issued during a SAPCR case dictate when each parent has the right to time with their child or children. Child support is also determined, as is the amount of money one parent pays to help with the cost of raising the child. These costs could include housing, food, clothing, school supplies, daycare, sports, and other activities. A judge can order a parent to pay a certain amount of child support and/or medical support to cover the costs of health insurance and other medical expenses.
How long does a SAPCR case take?
If all parties involved agree and are willing to sign the required forms, a SAPCR case can be completed within a few days. This means the SAPCR is uncontested and can be finished by agreement or by default.
If the parties cannot agree, the case is considered contested. These cases take significantly longer. This means the other parent filed an answer or waiver of service only and refuses to sign an agreed order. To finish a contested case, you must set a hearing date and give the other parent at least 45 days’ notice of the hearing. Your family law attorney will be an invaluable resource during a contested case.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Can File an Original SAPCR
There are some circumstances that warrant the Texas Department of Family and Protective service’s filing of an original SAPCR. These situations usually involve child abuse investigations or if the child or children are removed from their parents’ custody due to neglect or abuse. In rare cases, original SAPCR cases can be filed if the parents are not married and there is a dispute as to the rightful biological father of the children.
Brazoria County Family Law Attorneys
When drafting, filing, or modifying a SAPCR, the parent or conservator of the child or children should seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Navigating the waters surrounding these serious matters can be extremely emotional and stressful for all parties involved – especially the children. The family law attorneys of Terry & Roberts have extensive experience handling sensitive matters in an efficient and compassionate manner. Our divorce attorneys often serve as more than just legal counsel and become close confidants to clients as we listen to their needs. If you or a loved one has questions concerning any aspect of family law, please contact us to see how we can help.