Rapid City Divorce Attorney
Filing for Divorce in South Dakota
Once you have made the difficult decision to obtain a divorce, there are many things to consider. It is important to educate yourself so that you understand your basic rights and responsibilities and have a general idea about the process involved for obtaining a divorce.
Here, we have provided some helpful information on beginning the divorce process in South Dakota, as well as how our Rapid City divorce attorneys can help. With over 100 years of collective experience and a team-based approach to family law, Beardsley, Jensen & Lee can provide you with the attentive, compassionate, and reliable representation you need.
Does South Dakota Have Legal Requirements Before You Can File for Divorce?
You need to meet some minimum requirements in order to be eligible for a divorce. In South Dakota, residency requirements must be met before the court will have jurisdiction to hear the case. Specifically, you must be a resident in good faith. Also, there is a 60-day waiting period after the date of filing before the divorce will be granted.
Additionally, if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have any children under the age of 18, neither you nor your spouse may move out of state with your child/children without permission from the court.
Grounds for Divorce in South Dakota
In South Dakota, you must have grounds to file for divorce.
A divorce may be granted for the following reasons:
- Extreme cruelty
- Willful desertion
- Willful neglect
- Habitual intemperance
- Conviction of a felony
- Irreconcilable differences
To file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, both parties must agree to filing on such grounds, or there must be a default. For more information, please contact our Rapid City divorce lawyers. We can help you go over the specifics of your situation and advise you based on your unique circumstances.
How Is Child Custody Decided in South Dakota?
For separating parents, nothing is more important than the well-being of their children. At Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, we understand your concerns regarding where your children will live, who will be responsible for making child support payments, and how the future of your family will look.
In South Dakota, as in other states, the court decides on child custody and related matters by evaluating the “best interests of the child.” Child custody is not automatically granted to the mother, and neither parent is given preferential treatment by the court. Instead, the court will weigh a variety of factors to determine a child custody arrangement that is most beneficial to the child’s well-being.
Some factors used to determine child custody include:
- The child’s individual relationship with each parent
- The ability of each parent to care for the child’s physical, emotional, and financial needs
- The child’s age and overall physical and emotional health and well-being
- The child’s ties to the community, including their school and social/religious activities
- The child’s relationship to siblings and extended family members
- The mental and physical health and stability of each parent
- Whether either parent has been accused of or convicted of domestic violence
- Each parent’s willingness to allow/foster a relationship between their child and the other parent
- The child’s preferences (if applicable/appropriate)
Note that these are not the only factors used to determine child custody. Additionally, there are different types of custody; while one parent may have primary physical custody of their child, both parents may have equal legal custody, meaning both parents can make decisions regarding the child’s health care, schooling, religious upbringing, and more.
How Is Property Divided in a Divorce?
South Dakota is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital property will be divided in an equitable manner, or a manner the court deems “fair.” This does NOT mean that property is divided evenly, with an exact 50/50 split between the two spouses.
All “marital property” and “separate property” is subject to equitable division in South Dakota divorces. Marital property is any property that is acquired by either spouse during the marriage and includes things like bank account balances, retirement savings, shared family homes, vehicles, personal belongings, and even debts. Separate property is anything owned or obtained by one spouse prior to the marriage or inherited by or gifted to one spouse during the marriage.
In some cases, property that begins as separate property may be considered marital property if it was given to the other spouse or used for their benefit during the marriage. This could also occur if one spouse made significant contributions (whether financial or otherwise) to separate property during the marriage, such as a business or piece of real estate.
What to Do Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Divorces can become complicated and involve issues such as child custody, child support, property division, and spousal support. Before you contact an attorney, get a head start by gathering documents related to marital property, income, assets, income taxes, and debts. Try to think about how you would like to resolve issues, such as the custody of children and the division of property. Your attorney will likely advise you to try to work out a settlement agreement with your spouse.
If you can reach agreement, you will save time and money—as well as emotional turmoil. If you cannot reach agreement, it can become very difficult on every level and expensive. Your attorney will offer advice and recommendations; you will have to make the best decision you can under all the circumstances.
How Our Team Can Help
Since 1997, Beardsley, Jensen & Lee has been serving clients throughout Pennington County and beyond, providing reliable legal representation for a range of family law concerns. Our Rapid City divorce lawyers have helped families successfully navigate complex divorces, including those involving contentious child custody battles, high-value assets, shared businesses, and post-divorce modifications. We understand the difficulties divorce brings, and we know how to help you meet and overcome those challenges.
We are here to help you through every stage of the divorce process. We know that this is much more than just another legal case—it’s your life. Our team offers personalized support and compassionate guidance from start to finish, helping you find cost-effective solutions tailored to your unique concerns and goals.