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What is a SAPCR?

A SAPCR (pronounced sap sir) is a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship.  The suit will deal with the issues of a person's right to parent a child and can mark the beginning or end of a parent/child relationship.  A court in a SAPCR lawsuit will make decisions concerning a person's ability to have access, control, and/or possession to a child.  The suit can also address the issues of  child support.

Who may file a SAPCR lawsuit?

A parent

An authorized court representative

Custodian or person with a out of country or state court-ordered right to visitation or access

Guardian of a child's person or estate

Governmental entity

Department of Family and Protective Services

A licensed child placing agency

A man who alleges himself as the father

A person, other than a foster parent, who has had actual care, possession and control of the child for at least 6 months and ending no more than 90 days prior to filing suit.1

A person designated managing conservator in a revoked or unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment or to whom written consent to adoption was given

A person with whom the child and the child's guardian, managing conservator or parent have resided with for at least 6 months and ending no more than 90 days prior to filing suit, if at the time of filing suit, the child's guardian, managing conservator or parent is deceased.

A foster parent of a child placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services in the person's home for at least 12 months and ending no more than 90 days prior to filing suit.

A person related to the child within the third degree of consanguity if at the time of filing the child's parents are deceased.

A person named as a prospective adoptive parent by a pregnant woman or parent of the child in a verified written statement to confer standing

What about Grandparents, do they have the right to file a SAPCR claim?

Any person related to a child within the third degree of consanguity may file a SAPCR claim if the child's parents are deceased at the time of filing.  If the child's parents are alive, grandparents and others related to a child within the third degree of consanguity may file a SAPCR suit seeking managing conservatorship if the court has satisfactory proof that the order is necessary to protect the physical health and/or the emotional development of the child.  Such persons may also file a SAPCR lawsuit if both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator or custodian filed the suit or consented to it. A grandparent or other person may not file an original SAPCR suit seeking possessory conservatorship. However, a court may grant them permission to intervene in a pending suit filed by a person with standing to do so if the grandparent or other person has had substantial contact with the child and the court has satisfactory proof that the appointment of a parent as sole managing conservator or of parents as joint managing conservator would significantly impair the childs physical health or emotional development. 

May I bring my SAPCR case in a Texas court?

A Texas court may make an initial custody determination in a SAPCR case if at the time the suit is commenced the child's home state is Texas. If Texas was the child's home state within six months of filing but the child is now absent from the state and a parent or person acting as parent still lives here, then an initial custody determination may be made here. Home state is the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent or a person acting as a parent. A period of temporary absence of a parent or a person acting as a parent is part of the period. A Texas court may also make an initial custody determination in the situation where a child does not have a home state or whose home state court has declined to exercise jurisidiction because Texas is a more convenient forum to have the case heard.   Significant contact other than mere presence in the state by the child or child's parent or person acting as parent will be required.  The court will consider if there is substantial evidence available concerning the child's care, training, protection and personal relationships.2

When Can I File A Texas SAPCR Suit?

For most persons who have standing to bring a SAPCR lawsuit there is no deadline on which the lawsuit must be filed.  However for persons whose ability to file suit is reliant on the child living with them for at least six months, the suit should not be filed earlier than after six months of cohabitation.  It should be noted it is not required that the six months of resididing in the same household be continuous and uninterrupted.  Rather the court will be looking to see where the primary residence of the child was during the pertinent time period.3 In the event the child no longer lives with an individual depending on six months of cohabitation to bring suit, the lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of cohabitation with the child ending.

Persons in a SAPCR lawsuit wishing to determine or challenge paternity where a presumed father is involved will have four years from the child's birthday to do so.4 Regardless of the child's age, a presumed father may bring a SAPCR lawsuit at any time if he did not live with or engage in sexual intercourse with the child's mother during the likely time period of conception.  The four year time limit is also inapplicable to a father who was precluded from beginning a suit earlier because another's misrepresentations led the father to mistakenly believe a child to be his own.5      

Author's Information: Attorney Tracey A. Beecher is a family law practitioner. She represents clients with divorce, child support, child custody, property division in relation to divorce proceedings, and child protective services cases. She appears in courts within Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties.

Legal Disclaimer: Each person's situation and circumstances are unique. As such, this article is given to provide general information only. It is not legal advice nor is it intended as a substitute for legal counsel. Should the reader need legal advice or counsel, it is appropriate to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney.

Legal References

1 Texas Family Code 102.003 ‘[A]ctual . . . control . . . of the child,’ as used in section 102.003(a)(9), means the actual power or authority to guide or manage or the actual directing or restricting of the child, as opposed to legal or constructive power or authority to guide or manage the child. In sum, these words reflect the Legislature’s intent to create standing for those who have, over time, devel­oped and maintained a relationship with a child entailing the actual exercise of guid­ance, governance and direction similar to that typically exercised by parents with their children.” Jasek v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, 348 S.W.3d 523, 533 (Tex. App.—Austin 2011, no pet.); See Coons-Andersen v. Andersen, 104 S.W.3d 630, 636 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2003, no pet.).

 2 Texas Family Code 152.201

  3  Jasek v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, 348 S.W.3d 523, 533 (Tex. App.—Austin 2011, no pet.); See Coons-Andersen v. Andersen, 104 S.W.3d 630, 636 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2003, no pet.)  

 4 Texas Family Code 160.607 (a)

 5 Texas Family Code 160.607 (b)