South Dakota family law matters can be emotionally and financially draining on all individuals involved. The potential for things to go wrong can be a terrifying proposition for anyone involved in either a divorce, child custody, or child support case in South Dakota family law courts. With our brief primer below, you can build a basic understanding of the laws in South Dakota and how they apply to the facts of your particular case. This is the first step toward obtaining the rights you deserve. But it doesn’t start and stop with a basic education – we can also connect you – for free – to a South Dakota family law attorney or professional who can guide you through the process should you need more help.

South Dakota Divorce

South Dakota Family LawEach state’s laws regarding divorce are unique. In South Dakota, you can file for a divorce based on fault or no-fault grounds. A no-fault divorce means that the couple is experiencing irreconcilable differences and they do not believe that the marriage can be saved. This is the most common type of divorce in South Dakota Conversely, if one spouse is guilty of adultery, convicted of a felony, has willfully deserted or neglected his or her spouse, is guilty of extreme cruelty or is a heavy drinker or drug user, the victim spouse may seek a fault based divorce. Keep in mind, that fault based divorces often take a much longer period of time and can be difficult to complete. This is the main reason why no fault divorces are valid now in all 50-states.

As you go through a divorce, you will have to make decisions about many issues, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of marital assets. All of these topics can be extremely difficult to deal with on your own, so getting an understanding of the law is essential to protect your rights.

Residency Requirement for South Dakota Divorce

South Dakota family law rules require the spouse that initially files for divorce be a resident of the State of South Dakota at the time the case is filed with the court. However, if that party subsequently moves, the divorce can still proceed in South Dakota. There is also a “waiting period” of 60-days from the time when the other spouse is served and when the divorce can be finalized. This is standard in many states as a sort of cooling off period to make sure that people have an understanding of the issues involved and that they have taken ample time to consider the prospect of reconciliation.

Property Distribution in a South Dakota Divorce

Property distribution in a South Dakota divorce is also complex. South Dakota, by statute, determines the division of property by a formula they call “equitable distribution” (view the South Dakota law/statute here). This does not mean that marital property is divided evenly, or on a 50/50 basis. It means that property is divided according to what the judge determines is fair. The same rules apply for alimony in a South Dakota divorce case. Alimony, or, spousal support, is decided by a judge by taking into consideration many factors such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of both spouses, the education of both spouses, and the work and employment history of both spouses. These are issues that require a South Dakota family law professional to sort through as they are extremely complex.

South Dakota Child Support

When parents are separated, either because of the filing of a divorce action or because they were never married to begin with, the courts believe that someone must provide financially for the children of the relationship and that is the purpose of child support obligations. South Dakota family law courts consider a number of factors when making a child support determination. For instance, the court takes into consideration both parent’s salaries, commissions, bonuses and overtime earnings, as well as any worker’s compensation benefits, disability payments or pensions.

The court will also weigh into the calculation any taxes, alimony, annual business expenses, special costs for the child for special needs or special education, child support paid for other children, and the income of subsequent spouses. Additionally, the court will assess how much a parent must pay for his or her own health insurance coverage, and how much the parent contributes to expenses related to child care. South Dakota child support laws are more complicated than many other states where a straight percentage of gross or net income is used to determine the paying parent’s responsibility. A child support worksheet, either from the state or from a South Dakota family law attorney will need to be filled out in its entirety to determine exactly what amount is owed to whom.

South Dakota Child Custody

Child custody in South Dakota is based on a standard known as “the best interests of the child.” This determination is made by the court and weighs a variety of factors, including but not limited to what custody arrangement is best for the child’s moral and mental well-being, the child’s preference if the child is old enough to make such an important decision, and whether either parent has a history of committing domestic violence or abuse. The court will also consider each parent’s wishes to have custody when it comes to joint custody arrangements. In some instances, the court will even allow a teenager to state his or her preference as to which parent he or she wants to live with. Reading the statute, located here at Title 25 – Domestic Relations Chapter 25-4A, will help you gain an understanding of the specifics and how they apply to your case.

If there is any history of domestic abuse, this will weigh more heavily than almost any other determination in a South Dakota custody battle. Before beginning a custody fight, it is essential to start preparing months ahead of time by establishing your role as the provider for the child. Doing so means making meals, laundry, paying for child expenses, and spending quality time on a regular basis with your child. By establishing this pattern months in advance of filing for custody, you can better cement yourself in the minds of the child and the court that you are an integral part of your child’s life.

South Dakota Father’s Rights

South Dakota father’s rights are governed by state law and safeguard fathers’ rights as to paternity, child custody and child support. Fathers have an equal right to make decisions related to their child. Matters related to your child and your rights as a father are important to you, and fathers should realize that the laws have changed, fathers are equal to mothers in the eyes of the law. Establishing your role as a provider for your children is essential prior to beginning a custody fight for fathers. Months in advance, a father should be spending lots of quality time with their child and helping out with their homework and household needs. This is how you can win your South Dakota father’s rights case! And be sure not to fall victim to common pitfalls father’s make that can derail their case.

Getting the South Dakota Family Law Help You Deserve

Getting a brief education on South Dakota family laws is only the beginning. Now, you need to analyze how they fit with the facts of your case and decide if this is something you can do on your own or if help is needed. We have assembled a network of South Dakota family law attorneys and professionals that can help you fight for your rights as well as advise you on the proper things to do in advance of any family law matter. We can connect you – at no charge – to a local South Dakota family law expert that can help. Get started today!

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