Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child

Texas Criminal Law

The 85th Texas Legislature created a new law in 2017 called Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child, which makes it illegal to participate in, facilitate or conduct the unregulated custody transfer of an adopted child.

The law was amended in 2021 by substituting Prostitution for the recently-created Solicitation of Prostitution in the section that enhances penalties. You can learn more about this in the penalties section below.

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The Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child offense is codified in Title 6, “Offenses Against the Family.”

What is the current Texas law about Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child in Penal Code Section §25.081 as follows:[1]

(b) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly:

(1) conducts an unregulated custody transfer of an adopted child; or

(2) facilitates or participates in the unregulated custody transfer of an adopted child, including by transferring, recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, soliciting, or obtaining an adopted child for that purpose.

This law was created by Section 3 of House Bill 834[2] and is to be codified at Section 25.081 in the Texas Penal Code. The law defines adopted child and an unregulated custody transfer in Sections 25.081(a), and it also creates an exception in subsection (d).

H.B. 834 created a suite of laws regarding the regulated custody transfer of adopted children, including the law making it a criminal offense to transfer an adopted child outside of these regulations, and the law takes effect September 1, 2017.[3]

How can I be charged with Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child?

You can be charged with Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 25.081(b) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the penalty for a Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child conviction?

The Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child offense is currently penalized as a third degree felony,[4] with punishment not to exceed ten years in state prison, unless the state’s attorneys convince a jury that except that you committed the offense with intent to commit an offense under Section 20A.02, 43.021, 43.05, 43.25, 43.251, or 43.26, in which case it is a felony of the second degree.

For offenses occuring prior to September 1, 2021, the enhancement applied to offenses where the intent was to commit the standard Prostitution offense instead of the Section 43.021 Solicitation of Prostitution offense, but when the 87th Texas Legislature moved the “john”-type prostitution offenses to their own offense cateogry in 43.021, Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child was updated to reflect that the enhancement applied only to the new law.[5]


Legal References:

^1. Texas Penal Code §25.081^2. 1 House Bill 834^3. House Bill 834 at Sections 5-6^4. Texas Penal Code §25.081(c), as created by House Bill 834, Section 3, effective September 1, 2017^5. H.B. 1540, 87th Texas Legislature, Section 53


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