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How are Divorce Records Generated in South Dakota?

Divorce in South Dakota is a legal action that dissolves a marriage, also known as dissolution of marriage. The state of South Dakota’s divorce rate is 12.1 according to the United States Census Bureau, which is a much higher number than the national average.

Under state law, South Dakota has nine grounds for divorce: adultery or cheating, extreme cruelty such as injury or mental suffering, willful desertion, willful neglect, habitual intemperance, if one spouse is convicted of a felony, chronic mental illness or irreconcilable differences as long as both parties agree.

There are also multiple types of divorce in South Dakota, the main ones being default, stipulation, and contested. There is also separate maintenance and annulment. Default divorce occurs when one party files for divorce in South Dakota and the other party fails to respond or contest any agreements within the petition such as alimony, property allocation, and child custody. This type of divorce is granted on one spouse’s testimony alone. Stipulation makes it possible for both parties to collaborate and come to mutual agreements. Both parties agree on the terms and sign a document called a “stipulation”. This case will be handled similarly to that of a default divorce, with the document being enough grounds for a judge to grant a divorce without any further hearings. It’s also possible to petition for divorce by stipulation without both parties appearing before a judge as long as both parties consent to this and agree that the grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences. Contested divorce is a complex type of divorce and the process of finalization may take more time than others. This process begins when one spouse files for divorce but there are disputes or disagreements regarding the terms of the divorce. In this case, a trial is held and a judge will make decisions about the terms of divorce based on evidence and testimony from both parties and/or witnesses.

In the state of South Dakota, there is no legal separation, but there is a procedure called separate maintenance. The process is similar to a divorce as one or both parties must file for it, but the marriage is not dissolved and the case is not taken to court. If, after separate maintenance is achieved, one or both parties wish to dissolve the marriage, they must go through the process again to achieve legal divorce. Annulment is another option that may often be confused with divorce. A marriage is annulled when the marriage is found to have been void from the beginning. An annulment is finalized, as if the marriage had never happened. Grounds for annulment include proof that when the marriage happened, one or both parties were of unsound mind, forced, physically incapacitated, or if the marriage was fraudulent.

Are Divorce Records Public in South Dakota?

Availability of divorce records in South Dakota vary depending on the type of record requesting parties are attempting to access and who the requesting parties are in relation to the divorce. South Dakota Public Records Law 1–27 mandates that information contained in divorce records that include personal information about minors, victims of abuse, and financial or poverty information be redacted or sealed. If the record is partially redacted, members of the public should be able to access and view them, although the personal nature of the records itself may make this difficult.

What are the types of Divorce Records Available in South Dakota?

Availability and function of divorce records in South Dakota depends on the type of document being requested and who is requesting them. There are three ways that a divorce is recorded, and it is important for requesting parties to know the differences between them in order to fulfill their needs and save time and possibly money. The three ways that divorce records are documented by government bodies are divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and full divorce records. A divorce certificate is a simply vital record stating that a divorce took place. It includes the names of both parties and the date, time, and location the divorce took place. Certified copies of these records are typically only available to involved parties such as the two divorcees, their children, and any attorneys involved and is usually requested who one of the divorced parties wishes to change their name or obtain a new marriage license. A divorce decree contains more information than a divorce certificate. It includes the judge’s overall decisions and terms of the divorce, as well as a case number and signature. The agreements listed in this document include but are not limited to alimony agreements, child custody agreements, spousal and child support, visitation schedules, and allocation of debt and property. This document is most often requested when one of the parties wishes to challenge any agreements held within it. They are held and maintained by circuit court clerks and similarly to divorce certificates, are generally only available to involved parties. A divorce record is a full court record documenting a divorce case. It contains all information stated above, as well as all transcripts and testimonies created during the divorce process. They are generally considered public but may still be sealed under the order of a court rule or statute. They are maintained by the court clerk in the courthouse where the divorce was finalized.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, the circuit county clerks hold and maintain divorce records. In order to access divorce records, it is necessary to figure out where te divorce was finalized and visit or make contact with that specific courthouse. This can be made simple by using the South Dakota Court Finder Search tool on the South Dakota Judicial System website. To make a request, information about the divorce is required, such as the case number, the names of both parties involved, case status, and approximate date the case was filed or finalized. Many South dakota courthouses have terminals to access and view public records. If one needs to not only view a record, but to obtain a copy, it is necessary to make a request through the court clerk’s office. The requests require searching and copying fees and the requesting parties must provide copies of valid identification. If a record is requested but cannot be found due to the record being sealed by the court, there are no refunds.

To request one’s own divorce certificate, it is possible to request this record through both the Office of Vital Records of the South Dakota Department of Health and county Register of Deeds Offices either in-person or by mail.


To request copies of a divorce certificate in-person visit any Vital Records of register of Deeds office and provide valid identification, such as a driver’s license, state I. D., or passport. To save time, it is recommended to download and print a vital records Application Form. Fill out this form completely, along with the necessary fee of $15 per copy. This is payable in-person by cash, money order, and check. and visit:

South Dakota Department of Public Health

Vital Records

207 E Missouri Avenue, Suite 1A

Pierre, SD 57501

It is also possible to visit other offices to access this document.

By mail

To request this document by mail, similarly find and print out the application form found on the South Dakota Judicial System website. Once it is filled out, it must be signed in the presence of a notary public and sent by mail, along with the necessary fees, to:

South Dakota Department of Public Health

Vital Records

207 E Missouri Avenue, Suite 1A

Pierre, SD 57501

Checks and money orders are the only accepted forms of payment for requests made by mail.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in South Dakota?

Members of the public can access divorce records in South Dakota as long as they have not been sealed by the court. Only the parties involved in a divorce can access divorce certificates and divorce decrees.

Are South Dakota Divorce Records available online?

South Dakota does not have a statewide portal for accessing divorce records or other vital records. It may be possible to access these records through third-party websites, but availability and accuracy are not guaranteed as these websites are not government-sponsored.

How Do I seal My Divorce Records in South Dakota?

To seal pieces of a divorce record that have not already been sealed under South Dakota law, both parties involved in the divorce must file a petition and provide reasoning as to why they wish the record to be sealed. Ultimately, a court judge will decide whether or not to seal this document and if it is sealed, only the parties involved can access and view them.

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