Having a child is one of life’s most rewarding and exciting experiences. Unfortunately, parenthood can also become a source of contention when a relationship ends. The parents and even other parties may vie for custody of or access to the children, a difficult situation that is generally addressed in an SAPCR, or “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.”
Who may file a SAPCR?
Most SAPCRs filed in Texas are between the child’s unmarried birth parents. In many instances, the mother is seeking to have her partner legally recognized as the child’s father. Once he is formally identified, usually after a DNA test, the court will issue an order that addresses matters such as:
- Who has physical custody of the child?
- What visitation, if any, will the other parent have?
- Which parent pays child support?
- Who can make legal decisions for the child?
Although SAPCRs often involve unmarried parents, this is not always the case. Married couples who have separated (but not divorced) may also do so to obtain orders concerning child custody, visitation, and support, and the Texas Family Code §102.003 allows the following to bring a suit at any time:
- A child, via an authorized representative such as a guardian or amicus attorney. This is frequently done to obtain visitation with a sibling.
- A legally appointed guardian or person granted right of visitation.
- Licensed child placing agencies.
- Government entities and authorized agencies. For example, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services may file an SAPCR if there are allegations of abuse or neglect and the child’s paternity has not been established.
- Any person (other than a stepparent or foster parent) who has had custody of the child for at least six months, provided this period did not end more than 90 days before they filed the petition.
- A person who resided with the child and their parent or guardian (e.g. a step-parent) for at least six months before the petition is filed, provided the parent or guardian is deceased.
- Foster parents seeking to adopt a child.
- Relatives, such as siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, provided the parents are deceased.
Do SAPCRs Change?
Once a final order has been issued by the court, it remains in effect until new orders are necessary to address the changing needs of the child, their parents, and/or guardians. If this happens, the action is referred to as a Suit to Modify Parent-Child Relationship. Each situation is carefully examined to decide what actions meet the needs of all parties while remaining in the best interests of the child.
If you have questions about filing an SAPCR in and around Houston, contact Robert Von Dohlen today. He has handled many SAPCR cases, and is committed to treating your matter with great sensitivity, listening to your worries and concerns, and taking all necessary steps to bring about the best outcome for you and the children you love.