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Combining SAPCR and Divorce Cases


This article discusses how to join (combine) a SAPCR case with a divorce case.

In this article, learn what to do if you have an active Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship and you want to or have filed for divorce. Read about the law, the procedures that need to be followed before or after filing for divorce, and the effects of combining or transferring the case.

What is a SAPCR?

A SAPCR is a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. A SAPCR is usually filed by the child’s parents asking the court to make orders on custody, visitation rights, and child support. SAPCRs are most often filed when the child’s parents are not married, but they can also be filed when the parents are married but separated. Read Alternatives to Legal Separation in Texas to learn more about filing a SAPCR when you are married but separated from your spouse.  

You can file a SAPCR in Texas if the child has lived in Texas for at least six months (or since birth). You can also file a SAPCR in Texas if the child has not lived in Texas for less than six months and Texas is their home state. A SAPCR must be filed in the county where the child lives. Texas Family Code 152.201.

Can I file for divorce when there is a pending SAPCR involving the children of the marriage?

Yes. If you or your spouse filed a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) before deciding to divorce, you can still file for divorce while the SAPCR is pending (active). 

What happens if I file for divorce when there is a pending SAPCR?

If you file for divorce when there is an active SAPCR, you must file documents in the court with jurisdiction over the SAPCR asking for the cases to be consolidated or transferred to the divorce court. This process joins (combines) the SAPCR with the divorce.

Texas Family Code 155.201(a).

Why do I have to consolidate or transfer the SAPCR?

The Texas Family Code requires courts to combine SAPCRs with divorce cases because, in a divorce with children, all issues regarding the children are automatically a part of the divorce. 

After showing that a divorce has been filed in another court, that court in which a SAPCR is pending must transfer the proceedings to the court where the divorce is pending. 

Can I wait for my SAPCR to be finalized before I file for divorce?

Yes. If you want to wait for the SAPCR to finish before moving on to your divorce, you can. If you wait, the divorce will only surround dividing marital property and debts. However, you do not have to wait to file for divorce. It might be better to handle all child-related issues at the same time as the divorce, but it is up to the parties to decide. 

People who choose to wait to file for divorce usually want to have the child support and visitation settled first to take care of the immediate need for child support to start. 

What do I do when the cases are in the same Texas county?

If you file for divorce in the same Texas county as the SAPCR, you will need to file a Motion to Consolidate the cases. This is a simpler process than transferring venue. 

What do I do when the cases are in different counties?

If you file for divorce in a county other than the one the SAPCR is in, you will need to file a Motion to Transfer Venue. Texas Family Code 6.406 requires all pending SAPCRs to be transferred to the court in which the divorce is filed. 

Read Transferring a Family Law Case to Another Court to learn more. 

What if the SAPCR is already finished? Do I still need to consolidate or transfer the case?

You do not have to consolidate or transfer the completed SAPCR (Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship). If a court issues a final custody order, that court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the case from then on. This means that specific court will be the only one to hear any future related cases such as modifications or enforcements.

But, under the Texas Family Code, either party to the divorce may ask that the court with continuing exclusive jurisdiction transfer jurisdiction over the SAPCR to the divorce court. After the request, the SAPCR court shall transfer jurisdiction (authority) to the divorce court. Once the SAPCR is transferred, it will be consolidated in the divorce court.

Texas Family Code 6.407(b) and 155.202.

What will happen if I do not join the SAPCR and divorce?

If you do not join the SAPCR with the divorce, it can lead to delays and increased costs in the divorce. Joining the two cases together is mandatory under the Texas Family Code.

What about modification or enforcement cases? Do I need to transfer those too?

Yes. If you have a pending SAPCR modification or enforcement action, you must transfer or consolidate the case into your divorce case.

Texas Family Code 103.002

I need to transfer my case. What do I need to know about the process?

You can file a motion to transfer at any time.

A motion to transfer is considered "timely" if it is filed either:

  • At the same time as the initial court documents (like your Original Petition for Divorce), or
  • On or before the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of service of citation or notice of the suit or before the commencement of the hearing, whichever is sooner.

Your motion must contain a certification that all other parties, including the Office of the Attorney General (if applicable), have been informed of the motion's filing.

After filing your motion, the other parties have 20 days after the date of notice to file an objecting affidavit (sworn statement of facts). If no objecting affidavit is filed by the deadline, the court must transfer the case without a hearing no later than 21 days after the deadline.

If an objecting affidavit is filed, each party will receive at least 10 days' notice of a hearing on the motion to transfer.

Read Texas Family Code 155.204 for more details on transfer procedures.

What happens during and after the transfer?

During the transfer, the transferring court keeps its authority to make temporary orders. Once the case is put on the docket for the divorce court, the original court's jurisdiction (authority) ends. The divorce court then has jurisdiction to enter orders on all child-related and divorce matters related to the case. Any judgment or order made from the original transferring court will have the same effect and be enforced as if it was made by the new receiving court.

No later than 10 working days after an order of transfer is signed, the clerk of the transferring court will send the new court:

  • All pleadings in the pending case,
  • Any documents specifically requested by a party,
  • Certified copies of all entries in the minutes,
  • A certified copy of each final order, and
  • A certified copy of the order of transfer signed by the transferring court.

Read Texas Family Code 155.206 and 155.207 for more detail.

Should I talk with a lawyer if I need to combine my cases?

Yes. Joining (combining) SAPCR and divorce cases can be complicated. A family law lawyer can help make sure the process is completed correctly. This will help you avoid any delays and extra costs that may come up in the divorce process. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to fully represent you, you may be able to hire one just to draft your motion to transfer venue or motion to consolidate. This is called limited scope representation and may allow you to get this part of your case completed for a lower cost. 

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can: 

Where can I read the law on SAPCR and divorce case jurisdiction?

Read Texas Family Code 6.406 and 6.407 to learn about joining and the transfer of Suits Affecting Parent-Child Relationships to Divorce Court. 

Read Texas Family Code 155.201—155.207 to learn about transferring a SAPCR, the procedure, and the effect of the transfer. 

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