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Instructions & Forms for an Agreed SAPCR (filed by a nonparent)

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (often called a SAPCR) filed by a grandparent or other non-parent. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.

A SAPCR is a type of court case used to ask for a child custody, visitation, child support, and medical and dental support order.

If you are filing a new SAPCR after September 1, 2018, the court must order that dental insurance be provided for the child. See Texas Family Code chapters 154.1815 and 154.1825.

Use these instructions if:

  • you are not the child’s parent, and
  • you have “standing” to file an initial custody case, and
  • there are no court orders about the child already in place, and
  • both parents will agree to sign the necessary court forms.

Do you need help finding the right instructions?

Use our Ask a Question tool to chat with a lawyer or law student online.

Have you read the Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles?

These instructions are part of this TexasLawHelp.org toolkit: I need a SAPCR (custody) order. I am not the child’s parent. It’s important to read the Frequently Asked Questions and Articles included with the toolkit before getting started.

WARNING! These instructions provide general information, not legal advice. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist.

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Step 1: Make sure you can file the case.

“Standing” means the legal right to file a court case. Usually, only a parent has standing to file an initial custody case.

If you are not the parent, you have standing to file an initial custody case only if:

  • you have had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file your case and you are not a foster parent; or
  • you have lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian or conservator for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the SAPCR, and the child’s parent, guardian or conservator has died; or
  • you are the foster parent of a child placed by the Department of Family & Protective Services who has been in your home for at least a year ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the SAPCR; or
  • you are the child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew and: 
    • both parents are dead, or
    • both parents, the surviving parent or managing conservator agree that you can file the case, or 
    • the child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development.

If you have standing, go to Step 2. If you aren’t sure, talk to a lawyer.

Step 2: Fill out the court forms.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file the Petition with the court to start the case. It tells the judge and the child’s parents (and anyone else listed as a respondent) what orders you want the judge to make. The Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles included with these instructions will help you understand your options.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers clearly in blue or black ink.
  • Do not leave blanks (unless instructed to do so).
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner—the person asking the court to make a custody order. You must fill out and sign the Petition. No one else needs to sign the Petition.

Who must be listed as a respondent? Each parent must be listed as a respondent (unless the parent is dead or the parent’s parental rights have been terminated). If a parent is dead, you must attach a copy of the parent’s death certificate. If a parent’s parental rights were terminated, you must attach a copy of the court order terminating their rights. If anyone else has a court ordered relationship with the child, that person must also be listed as a respondent.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 1-800-374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms if required for your case:

Fill out the following ending forms:

You will ask the judge to sign this order form when it’s time to finish your case. Fill it out completely (except for the signatures).

Note: A Modified Possession Order (Nonparent is Managing Conservator) form will print with the Nonparent Custody Order. Fill it out completely and attach it to your Nonparent Custody Order.

Fill out both forms before you go to Court. You and the parents may want to fill them out together.

Fill out this additional ending form if child support will be ordered:

Step 3: Have your forms reviewed.

Although not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as custody cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. This is called limited scope representation. You can then finish your case yourself. You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Step 4: Make copies of your starting forms.

Make enough copies of these completed starting forms for you and each respondent to have one copy of each form:

  • Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (if required for your case)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (if needed for your case)
Step 5: File (turn in) your starting forms.

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court in the county where the child lives.

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your forms in person, take your Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee).
  • Complete the Civil Case Information Sheet, a form provided by the clerk’s office.
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to your Petition.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your case.)
  • The clerk will file-stamp your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and return your copies.
Step 6: Notify the Office of the Attorney General (if applicable).

Has the child ever received TANF or Medicaid?

  • If NO, skip this step.
  • If YES, you must send a file-stamped copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Child Support Division (and be able to prove that you did so).
    • Send your Petition by Email: You can scan a file-stamped copy of your Petition and email it. Find the email address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Email Addresses for Child Support Offices. Write the cause number and the county where you filed your case in the subject line of the email. Print a copy of your email. This is your proof. Bring it with you when you go to court to finish your case.
    • Send your Petition by Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested: Or, you can mail a copy of your Petition by certified mail return receipt requested. The post office has the forms for certified mail return receipt requested. Find the mailing address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Mailing Addresses for Child Support Offices. The post office will give you a receipt when you mail the Petition. The OAG will sign the return receipt (often called the “green card”) and mail it back to you. This is your proof. Bring the receipt and the return receipt (green card) with you when you go to court to finish your case.
Step 7: Ask the parents to fill out and sign court forms.

Give each parent (or other respondent):

  • a file-stamped copy of your Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, and
  • a blank Respondent’s Original Answer form OR a blank Waiver of Service Only form, and
  • a completed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) form with a completed Possession Order attached.

WARNING! Do not hand-deliver any papers to a parent if there has been violence, especially if a judge has signed a Protective Order. You can have a parent served instead. If you decide to have a parent served, use these instructions: Instructions & Forms for a Default SAPCR (filed by a nonparent).

Ask each parent (or other respondent) to complete these 3 steps:

  1. Fill out and sign the Respondent’s Original Answer form OR the Waiver of Service Only form

The parent can fill out and sign either form.

The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.

The Waiver of Service Only form must be signed in front of a notary. If the parent plans to sign the Waiver of Service Only form, tell the parent to sign it in front of a notary at least one day after you filed the Petition. Otherwise the parent will have to redo it.

  1. Sign the completed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) form with the completed Modified Possession Order attached. This form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.

The Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) form must be completely filled out when the parents sign it. You CANNOT make changes to the order form after it has been signed by a parent, unless the parent initials each change.

  1. Return the signed forms to you.

You should also:

  • sign the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) form, and
  • make a copy of the Respondent’s Original Answer forms or Waiver of Service Only forms signed by the parents.
Step 8: Get ready for court.

Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.

If you sent a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (because the child receives or has received Medicaid or TANF), ask the clerk if the Office of the Attorney General filed anything in your case.

  • If no, you can finish your divorce without further notice to the Office of the Attorney General.  
  • If yes, talk with a lawyer about what to do next. You can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer online

Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court.

Step 9: Go to court to finish your case.

Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:

  • a file-stamped copy of your Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship; and
  • the Answer or Waiver of Service Only forms signed by the parents; and
  • a completed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) (with a possession order attached) signed by you and both parents; and
  • a completed Income Withholding Order for Support for each parent who will be ordered to pay child support, medical support, or dental support.

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the Respondent’s Original Answer or Waiver of Service Only forms that were filled out and signed by the parents. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copies. Bring your file-stamped copies with you to court.
  • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).

When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge: who you are, how you are related to the child, what orders you are asking the judge to make and why those orders would be in the child’s best interest. It’s a good idea to write down everything you want to say so you can read it to the judge if you get nervous.

The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.

Step 10: File the signed order or orders.

After the judge signs your Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order), go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the signed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Parent Custody Order) and any other orders signed by the judge. Your case is NOT final until you do so.
  • Get a certified copy of your Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Parent Custody Order) and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 
  • File the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship (required for all cases) with the district clerk's office.
  • If child support was ordered:
    • ask the clerk how to set up a child support account, and
    • ask the clerk to send a copy of the Income Withholding Order for Support to the employer of the parent or parents ordered to pay child support, medical support, or dental support.
Step 11: After your case is finished.

Follow these steps after your case is finished.

  • Send a file-stamped copy of the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Nonparent Custody Order) and any other orders signed by the judge to each respondent.
  • If a respondent was ordered to pay child support, medical support, or dental support to you and doesn’t pay, contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.