In Texas, a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) case is one where a judge is asked to make an order regarding child custody, visitation, child support and responsibilities for medical support. A SAPCR does not involve the dissolution of a marriage or the division of debt or property among spouses, a SAPCR only involves issues involving children.
When a parent has sole custody, called the sole managing conservator, that parent has the right to designate the primary residence of a child. If parents have shared custody, and are joint managing conservators, the parenting plan assigns one parent as having the right to designate primary residence.
Texas Family Law rules for venue and transfers of a SAPCR
If the parent who has the right to designate the child’s residence decides to move, they can. The original court where the parties were divorced or had parents’ rights determined in a SAPCR, is the court that retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction over case and the parties. If, however, a parent moves far away or out of state, they can ask the original court to transfer the case to a new county or state.
The rules for transferring SAPCR cases are unique in the Texas Family Code and the normal Texas civil procedure rules do not apply. Generally, an original SAPCR suit must be filed in the county where the child resides. To transfer the case to another court, the parties can ask for a one-time transfer of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, when the original SAPCR case is filed; not later and not by other downstream counties if the parties move.
What can happen when SAPCR cases are improperly transferred
A Texas Court of Appeals case out of Corpus Christi[i] involved several transfers of a SAPCR case through various counties, ending in a final trial in Nueces County. The final judgment in the SAPCR case was set aside and the case was transferred back to its original counties. The parties moved several times, filed several motions to transfer the case, and the Court of Appeals Court noted that a motion to transfer is timely when made at the time the initial case is filed.
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[i] IN the INTEREST OF C.G., 495 S.W.3d 40 (2016)