You may have heard of the phrase “Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR),” but chances are you may be unsure as to its meaning and how it applies to parents. Under Texas family law, when a divorce is filed and involves a child or children, a SAPCR is automatically applied to the filing. A SAPCR is also filed when a couple is separated and there is a need to define conservatorship, child and/or medical support, or a visitation schedule. It is important to note SAPCR petitions only affect children and cannot be used to address any legal matters between two adults outside of the wellbeing of the child.
What is a SAPCR?
A suit affecting the parent-child relationship begins with a petition filed in family court that requests the judge issue orders regarding child custody, visitation, child support, and/or medical support from a parent. A SAPCR may also be filed where the parents of a child or children are not married to legally establish or “adjudicate” the parent-child relationship for the children and their biological father.
Additionally, under the following circumstances, an outside adult (other than a child’s parents) may file a SAPCR:
- Person has served as a foster parent to the child or children for at least one year prior to filing the SAPCR
- Person is in possession of and providing care to the child for at least six months prior to filing the SAPCR and is not a foster parent
- Person has lived with the child and their parent, legal guardian, or conservator for at least six months prior to filing the SAPCR; and, the parent, legal guardian, or conservator has passed away
- Person is the child or children’s sibling, grandparent, great-grandparent, uncle/aunt, niece, or nephew, and the child’s parents have passed away
- Both parents or a surviving parent can agree to transfer conservatorship if the child’s current environment can cause physical and/or emotional harm
When further learning about what a SAPCR can do, it is important to keep in mind the purpose is always to establish the best environment for a child.
What can a SAPCR do?
The choice to file a SAPCR can be made for any number of reasons, including the wellbeing of a child and/or the relationship between the parent and child. SAPCRs are useful tools that legally outline the rights and duties of both parents and can be used to determine legal matters such as the amount and schedule of child support payments, visitation schedules, medical issues, and more, concerning the health and upbringing of any children involved.
In some circumstances, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services can file an original SAPCR, including due to child abuse investigations or if the child or children are removed from their parents’ custody due to neglect or abuse. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services may also file a SAPCR if the parents are not married and there is concern regarding the rightful biological father.
Once a SAPCR is filed in family court, it will continue in jurisdiction, meaning the contents outlined and court orders issued in the SAPCR will legally stand unless and until a petition is filed to update its terms. An update or modification to a SAPCR may be necessary as the child grows and their needs and the needs of the parent-child relationship change. Any changes to an existing SAPCR must be filed in the court of continuing jurisdiction. The new petition is referred to as a Suit Modifying Parent-Child Relationship (SMPCR).
Brazoria County Family Law Attorneys
The process of drafting, filing, and modifying a SAPCR can be daunting and complex. A parent or conservator of a child should seek the guidance of a seasoned family law attorney. Navigating the waters surrounding matters that involve children is no easy task, as it can be extremely emotional and stressful for all parties involved. The seasoned family law attorneys of Terry & Roberts have extensive experience handling sensitive family law matters in an efficient and compassionate manner. Our 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.