How to File Divorce in South Dakota

How to File Divorce in South Dakota

Today, Mount Rushmore is probably the most popular reason to visit South Dakota.  Believe it or not, though, Sioux Falls, South Dakota was known as the “Divorce Capital of the Nation” back in 1890.  

The state developed very short residency requirements that allowed wealthy couples to move there for a few months and then get a speedy divorce in a closed courtroom.  

Many did not even do that.  They established residency by renting a hotel room, hanging clothes in the closet, and then going home and living their lives for a few months before coming back to South Dakota to finalize the divorce as though they had lived in the hotel that whole time.

No time limits

In South Dakota, keeping up with the historic tradition, there is no length of residency or waiting period is required to file for divorce.  You just must be a resident of the state when you file and you must remain a resident until the divorce is final.  

Grounds for divorce

South Dakota has maintained its old “fault” grounds for divorce, including adultery, extreme cruelty, willful desertion, willful neglect, habitual intemperance, and conviction of a felony.  

Until recent decades, spouses seeking a divorce would have to prove that the other spouse committed one of these faults before a judge would grant a divorce.  Today it is a different story, and most divorces are going to be granted on a no-fault basis.

The no-fault ground for divorce in South Dakota is “irreconcilable differences.”  

That really just means that for whatever reason the spouses wish to split up and move on with their own lives.  

Court approved forms

The South Dakota Unified Judicial System has developed guides and forms for helping people represent themselves in a divorce proceeding.  The courts say that some divorces are simple and can be handled without a lawyer, though it is a good idea to get legal advice if at all possible.  

Dividing property

South Dakota courts will divide property equitably between the spouses at divorce.  It does not matter whose name is on the property. What matters is whether the property was acquired during the marriage.  

If it was, then it will be divided up.  Each spouse is allowed to keep whatever assets they came into the marriage with, along with items like gifts and inheritances.  The court can also order ongoing spousal support payments for a period of time to help a spouse that will be disadvantaged by the divorce.

Child custody and support

The court granting a divorce may address the custody, care and education of the divorcing couple’s children.  The court will take many factors into account, including the means of the parents and the preferences of the children.  

Custody includes both a legal aspect, meaning who makes legal decisions for the child, along with a physical aspect, meaning where the child resides on a given day.  The court can also order support, requiring one parent to pay money to help the other parent bear the financial burden of raising the children.

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