Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child: Texas Penal Code §25.081

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child law makes it illegal to participate in, facilitate, or conduct the unregulated custody transfer of an adopted child.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 25.081, and it went into September 1, 2017.

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The law was most recently amended in 2021 to clarify that the second degree felony enhancement does not apply when the offense is committed in order to facilitate Prostitution, but does apply when the intent was to facilitate Solicitation of Prostitution, among other offenses. The law was not amended in 2023.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child law under Title 6 “Offenses Against The Family,” Chapter 25 “Offenses Against The Family.” This chapter includes crimes that focus on familial, parent, and spousal relationships. Some of the offenses relate to sexual or violent behavior, while others deal with custody and possession of children. Learn more about the Texas offense of Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child below.

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 in 2017 and went into effect September 1, 2017.[2] The statute also provides a definition for “adopted child” and an “unregulated custody transfer” in subsection (a).

The same bill that enacted this criminal offense also 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.[3]

How can I be charged with an Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child in Texas 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 statute of limitation for Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child in Texas?

Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child offenses have a three-year limitations period.[4]

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

The Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child offense is currently penalized as a third degree felony,[5] 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 Trafficking of Persons, Solicitation of Prostitution, Compelling Prostitution, Sexual Performance by a Child, Employment Harmful to Children, or Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography, 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.[6]

Can you get probation for Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[7]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[8] Also, judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[9]

What level of crime is Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Child as a second or third degree felony, depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §25.081. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. HB 834, 85th Legislature, Section 3, 5 & 6^3. HB 834, 85th Legislature^4. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^5. Texas Penal Code §25.081(c), as enacted by HB 834, Section 3, effective September 1, 2017^6. HB 1540, 87th Texas Legislature, Section 53^7. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^8. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^9. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure


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