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

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship” (called a SAPCR for short) filed by a parent. Each step includes a link to forms or forms needed for that step.  Click on the step to expand it with more information.

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

Use these instructions if:

  • you and the other parent have signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” form; and
  • you and the other parent are not married (or don’t want a divorce); and
  • there are no court orders for custody and support of your children already in place (other than a family violence protective order); and
  • the other parent will agree to sign the necessary court forms.

Do NOT use these instructions if:

Note: If there is a family violence protective order, you CAN use this toolkit as long as you meet the other requirements. You must attach a copy of the protective order to your Petition. If you were the victim of family violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) before filing a SAPCR case. You may qualify for free legal help.

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 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: Fill out the court forms.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file the Petition with the court to start the case. The Petition tells the judge and the other parent 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.

Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks. 

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner—the person asking the court to make a custody and support order. You must fill out and sign the Petition. The other parent does not need to sign the Petition.

Who is the respondent? The other parent is the respondent. If your child lives with a grandparent or other non-parent, that person must also be listed as a respondent. It’s important to talk with a lawyer before filling out these forms if your child lives with a non-parent.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. The other parent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about the other parent 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 this ending form:

You will ask the judge to sign this form when it’s time to finish your case. Fill it out completely (except for the judge’s signature, your signature and the other parent’s signature). You and the other parent may want to fill out the order form together. But don’t sign the order form until you get to Step 6.

Note: A Standard Possession Order will print with the Parent Custody Order. If this standard possession schedule works for your family, fill it out and attach it to the Parent Custody Order. If it does not work for your family or would not be safe for your children, you may be able to use one of the sample possession orders included with this article: Child Visitation & Possession Orders. Or, you may hire a lawyer to write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family.

IMPORTANT: You must attach a copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity form for each child to your Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. The Acknowledgment of Paternity is the legal form signed by you and the other parent to identify the child’s biological father as the child’s legal father. Get a copy by filling out an Acknowledgment of Paternity Inquiry Request and sending it to the Acknowledgment of Paternity Registry of the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. Get the form here: Texas Department of State Health Services Forms. Instructions are on the form. You can also contact the Vital Statistics Unit at 512-776-7111.

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

Step 2: Have your forms reviewed (if possible).

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 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 3: Make copies of your starting forms.

Make two copies of these completed starting forms:

  • Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (only if you or one of the respondents lives outside of Texas)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (only if you are asking the court to waive court costs)
Step 4: File (turn in) your starting forms.

File (turn-in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court in the county where your 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 your 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).
  • 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 5: Notify the Office of the Attorney General (if applicable).

Has your 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 6: Ask the other parent to fill out and sign court forms.

Give the other parent:

  • 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 (Parent Custody Order) form with a completed possession order attached.

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

Ask the other parent to complete these 3 steps:

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

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

  1. Sign the completed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Parent Custody Order) form with a completed 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 form must be completely filled out when the other parent signs it. You CANNOT make changes to the order form after it has been signed by the other parent, unless the other parent initials each change.

  1. Return the signed forms to you.

You should also:

  • sign the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship form, and
  • make a copy of the Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form that was filled out and signed by the other parent.
Step 7: 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 gets Medicaid or TANF now or got it in the past), ask the clerk if 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 8: 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 form signed by other parent; and
  • a completed Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Parent Custody Order) (with a possession order attached) signed by you and other parent; and
  • a completed Income Withholding Order for Support if child support and/or medical support will be ordered.

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 form that was filled out and signed by the other parent. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy. Bring your file-stamped copy 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 children, what orders you are asking the judge to make and why those orders would be in the children’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 (Parent Custody Order).
Step 9: File (turn in) the signed order or orders.

After the judge signs your Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (Parent 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 form 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 ordered to pay child support.
Step 10: 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 (Parent Custody Order) and any other orders signed by the judge to the other parent.
  • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support, learn about payment options here: Texas Attorney General - Child Support Payment Options. If you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division at 1-800-252-8014. DO NOT send child support payments directly to the other parent.
  • If the other parent was ordered to pay child support and/or medical support to you but doesn’t pay, contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.