Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship in Texas, a SAPCR overview

A parent or another authorized person, may file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) to ask the court to order custody, visitation, child support and for medical support. The parent or authorized person must have standing to file a SAPCR. The best interests of the child are the priority of the court. The complexity and time to complete a SAPCR is unique to each individual cause.

A parent or another authorized person, may file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) to ask the court to order custody, visitation, child support and for medical support. If an individual is not the parent of the child or paternity has not been established, they would first have to determine parentage before continuing with a SAPCR. In some cases, the parents have successfully co-parented and shared responsibilities in the support of children without incident. When circumstances change, there can be a breakdown in agreement on co-parenting and the orders of a court may be the best way to document the stated rights and responsibilities of each parent and as well, what is in the best interest of children. Note that a SAPCR is not used to modify an existing court order. A petition to modify an existing court order is different than a SAPCR.

The parent or authorized person must have standing to file a SAPCR.

A child's parent may file for custody, visitation, support or medical support. In addition, individuals who are not the parent, may also file a SAPCR under certain conditions. For example, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, niece or nephew can file for custody if both the child's parents are deceased, or where there is otherwise an agreement among remaining parents and any managing conservators. In cases where there is a threat of harm to the child, that alone can be enough to have standing to file a SAPCR.

In other cases, a non-family member who is living with the child and parent for more than half a year can file a SAPCR in the child's best interests. Sometimes, for various reasons, an individual not related to the child has the child with them in the possession, care and control for more than half a year and the parent is not living there and may be unavailable. The court can allow standing to file a SAPCR in a variety of situations. Foster parents may also be eligible to file a SAPCR in certain circumstances.

The best interests of the child are the priority of the court.

The United States Supreme Court has stated that the "best interest of the child" standard is what should be implemented and used by state courts in making decisions regarding child custody and care issues.

A Texas Supreme Court case referred to as Holley, identifies the factors a court may consider in making decisions in the best interests of a child, as follows:

1. The desires of the child;

2. The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;

3. The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;

4. The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;

5. The programs available to assist those individuals to promote the best interests of the child;

6. The plans for the child by these individuals;

7. The stability of the home;

8. Acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one, and;

9. Any excuse for a parent's acts or omissions.

The complexity and time to complete a SAPCR is unique to each individual cause.

If both parents are actively involved in the life of a child and stand in strong disagreement with one another, the court may need to use broad power to order custody evaluations, discovery investigations, mediation and conduct hearings and trials. In some situations, individuals file appeals of the decisions of a court and the appellate court will determine whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the facts.

If there are agreements among the parents or individuals involved in raising the child, the SAPCR process can be relatively easy and not delayed. When the parties meet with their attorneys in agreement or where the other parent is deceased or not available, the focus is on preparing the proper notices and paperwork to file with the court.

When asking the court to make an order concerning the custody, visitation, child support and medical support of a child, there are Texas Family Code sections, caselaw, legal presumptions and burdens that apply. Experienced family law attorneys can meet with parents and others to advise them what the court may do and how they may experience a SAPCR.

If you have further questions about a Suit Affecting a Parent-Child Relationship, call Scroggins Family Law.

Dallas, Collin and Denton County Board Certified divorce and family law attorney, Mark Scroggins, along with their team at Scroggins Family Law represent clients in a variety of divorce and family law matters.

At Scroggins Family Law, our Dallas, Denton and Collin County divorce attorneys have more than over 20 years of collective experience with family law cases. When you retain our firm, you can trust that your case is in the hands of a highly skilled, dedicated professional. we understand the unique challenges of a high value divorce case, and more importantly, have the knowledge and experience you need on your side. Call us today, (214) 469-3100, to learn more about Texas divorce and family law.

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