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(SAPCR) I need a custody order. I am the child's parent.

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(SAPCR) I need a custody order. I am the child's parent.

This toolkit tells you how to ask for a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order if

(1) you and the other parent are not married (or don’t want a divorce),

(2) you and the other parent have signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity,” and

(3) there are no existing court orders about your child.

FORMS ARE INCLUDED.

This toolkit includes:

  • Instructions & Forms you can use to file a custody case called a "Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship" (SAPCR for short).
    • Use the first set of instructions if the other parent agrees.
    • Use the second set of instructions if you don’t think the child’s other parent will participate in the process.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about filing a SAPCR case.
  • Articles on topics related to custody, visitation/possession, child support, medical support, and dental support.

Do NOT use this toolkit if:

  • You and the other parent have NOT signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity.” Use this toolkit: I need a paternity order. A paternity order identifies the child's legal father AND makes custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support orders.
  • You are married to the child’s other parent and want a divorce. Use this toolkit instead: I need a divorce. We have minor children.
  • There is already a court order about your child (not including a family violence protective order). If there is already a court order about your child (such as an Attorney General Child Support Order), use this toolkit instead: I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order.

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.

Other Options:

  • Get help from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)—Although the OAG cannot represent you, the OAG may be able to help you get a custody, visitation, child support (including back child support), and medical and dental support order. For information about opening a case with the OAG, call (800) 252-8014 or go to its website: Texas Attorney General Child Support Division.

Need Help?

WARNING! The information and forms in this toolkit are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

Instructions & Forms
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a SAPCR case and a paternity case?

A SAPCR case asks a judge to make a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order for your child.

A paternity case can ask a judge to make a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order for a child AND establish paternity (name the legal father of your child).

I need a custody, visitation and support order for my child. The other parent and I are not married. Should I file a SAPCR case or paternity case?

If you and the other parent have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, you should usually file a SAPCR case. The legal father of your child is already named in the Acknowledgment of Paternity.

If you and the other parent have not signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, you should usually file a paternity case. A paternity case will ask the judge to establish paternity (name the legal father of your child) AND make custody, visitation, child support and medical support orders.

Use this toolkit if you want to file a paternity case: I need a paternity order.

Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student, if you have questions.

What is an Acknowledgment of Paternity?

An Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a legal form signed by a man and the child’s mother that states (under penalty of perjury) that the man is the child’s genetic father. An AOP is usually used when the parents aren’t married but agree on the identity of the child’s father.

When the completed AOP is filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, the genetic father becomes the child’s legal father with all the rights and duties of a parent. 

Exception: If the child’s mother is married to someone else when the child is born (or the child is born within 300 days of the date of divorce) then the husband (or ex-husband) is the child’s presumed father. You cannot use the AOP form to establish paternity unless the presumed father also signs a Denial of Paternity (DOP).

How do I get a copy of an Acknowledgment of Paternity?

You will need a copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity form for your SAPCR case. To get a copy, fill out an Acknowledgment of Paternity Inquiry Request form. Get the form here: Texas Vital Statistic Forms. Instructions are included on the form. You can also contact the Vital Statistics Unit at (512) 776-7111.

Can I file my SAPCR case in Texas?

You can file a SAPCR case in Texas if:  

  • the child has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months (or since birth) or
  • Texas was the child’s home state and the child has been gone less than 6 months.

See Texas Family Code Section 152.201.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Talk with a lawyer if this is an issue.

What if the other parent doesn’t live in Texas?

If the other parent lives out-of-state, you can still file your SAPCR case in Texas if:

  • the child has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months (or since birth) or
  • Texas was the child’s home state and the child has been gone less than 6 months.

However, the court must have personal jurisdiction over the other parent to make orders that impose a personal obligation on the other parent — such as ordering the other parent to pay child support. The Original Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship form includes a list of situations that give the court personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state parent. Check any that apply to your case. Talk to a lawyer if none apply or you have questions about personal jurisdiction.

Where should I file my SAPCR case?

You must file a SAPCR case in the Texas county where the child lives. 

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my SAPCR/custody case?

You do not have to have a lawyer to file or respond to a SAPCR case. However, SAPCR cases can be complicated and your rights as a parent may be at risk. It’s a good idea to talk with a family law lawyer about your particular situation. A family law lawyer can explain your rights and options.

It’s really important to talk with a family law lawyer if any of the following are true.

  • You are afraid for your or your child’s safety.
  • Your case is contested.
  • The other parent has a lawyer.
  • Your child has a disability.

If you need help finding a family law lawyer, you can:

Can I hire a lawyer just to give me advice?

Yes! You can hire a family law lawyer just to give you advice, review your forms, draft a document or help you prepare for a hearing. You may then be able to handle the other parts of your case yourself. Hiring a lawyer for a limited purpose is called “limited scope representation.”