South Dakota lawmakers failed to join nine other states that recognize a presumption of equal joint custody — also known as shared parenting — for children of divorced parents. A bill voted down in March would have required judges to split physical custody equally between divorcing parents unless there is evidence that such an arrangement is not in the child's best interest.

Under South Dakota's current law, all child custody determinations are based on the child's best interests, including their health, well-being and general welfare. A judge might consider factors such as:

  • The child's wishes
  • The historical childcare arrangement, including whether one parent has acted as the primary caregiver and how much quality time each parent has spent with the child
  • Each parent's moral fitness and ability to offer the child a safe, stable and caring home environment
  • Each parent's past and present conduct
  • Each parent's ability to provide basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and medical care

The court may require parents to follow a standard custody arrangement defined by statewide standard guidelines.

While equal joint custody is not the presumption in South Dakota, plans requiring a 50/50 split of parenting time are still possible. If parents can work together, the law allows them to develop their own parenting plan that is not bound to follow these standard guidelines. Even when parents agree on a custody plan, the court retains the final say. The plan must be submitted to the court for approval in writing and signed by both parents.

The divorce and family law attorneys of Anker Law Group, P.C. understand South Dakota's divorce laws and how to use them to advance our clients' interests. We can help you fight to retain custody of your children in even the most contentious divorce. Call us at 605-519-5967 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation at our Rapid City office.

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  • Rapid City Office


    1301 West Omaha Street
    Suite 207
    Rapid City, South Dakota 57701