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South Dakota Court Records

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How to File For Divorce in South Dakota

A divorce is a legal action or proceeding that ends a marriage. Due to the consequences of severing marriage ties, divorce processes are designed to address issues such as making provisions for all parties affected by the split, especially children. During a divorce in South Dakota, spouses divide finances, assets, responsibilities, and debts equitably. The detailed paperwork required to start a divorce process in the state is a complaint or a petition. It is a formal request to end a marriage, and it contains legal reasons for the divorce, proof to support or back those reasons, and a spouse’s suggestions for addressing divorce-related issues such as establishing child support and maintenance, division of child expenses( health insurance and daycare), visitation and parenting schedule.

Divorce cases are addressed in the District courts of the State Court system. The court cost associated with filing divorce paperwork in South Dakota is $80- $95. Unlike many states in the United States, South Dakota does not consider a spouse’s length of stay in the state as a ground for being eligible to file for divorce.

Do I Need a Reason for Divorce in South Dakota?

South Dakota courts favor marriage over a divorce. As a result, South Dakota couples must provide the court with a legal ground or reason for requesting to terminate the marriage. According to  Chapter 25 of South Dakota codes, they can legally file for fault or no-fault divorce. For a no-fault divorce, the couple must allege that they have “irreconcilable differences” that make it difficult to continue to live together. In this case, the court is not required to know the marriage’s intimate details; hence, the spouses are not required to blame each other. The judge will grant the order for divorce if the court determines that the marriage is beyond repair and that the parties are no longer compatible.

For fault divorces, the filing party or plaintiff only has to prove that the other party is responsible for the request by engaging in any of the following:

  • Adultery (when a party engages in extramarital affairs or sexual relations with another individual during the marriage)
  • Extreme cruelty (when a spouse causes physical injury or mental suffering to the other party)
  • Willful neglect (when a spouse refuses to provide common needs due to laziness, extravagance, and wasteful spending habits)
  • Habitual intemperance(when the spouse is under the influence at all times such that it impairs functionality and causes emotional distress to the other party.)
  • Conviction of felony
  • Willful desertion (when a spouse leaves the other party with the intention of leaving the marriage)

Couples seeking a fault divorce should note that it is a more complicated form of divorce. It constitutes a lengthy legal process and higher legal fees. 

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved. It is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third-party public record websites.

Why do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

Although it may require more legal fees, hiring divorce lawyers are especially important in fault divorces in South Dakota. They are experts in the laws that govern legal separation in the state; hence, they can navigate the legal system with ease and protect the interests of the parties involved. They can legally guarantee the safety of endangered parties and ensure adequate financial compensation.

Individuals that require the services of an experienced divorce lawyer can find one through the South Dakota Lawyer Referral Service operated by the State Bar. They can search the organization’s database using parameters such as practice area, attorney’s name or firm name.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in South Dakota?

In a divorce, the individual who initiates the divorce is the plaintiff, and the one receiving the complaint is the defendant. Divorce action in South Dakota starts when a summons and complaint is served upon the defendant or other party in the case. The complaint or petition is the official paperwork that requests the court to grant the divorce. It contains the grounds and reason for the request, along with the plaintiff’s demands or suggestions on how the case should proceed. That is, it states the plaintiff’s suggestions on how the court should decide on divorce-related issues such as; child custody, support, and maintenance, alimony or spousal support, visitation and parenting time, division of property (assets and debts), etc. Serving this complaint commences a divorce in South Dakota.

To file a complaint or petition for divorce, state laws require that the plaintiff must be a resident of South Dakota at the time of the filing and until the divorce is final. The petition may be filed in the county where the defendant lives. As proof, the individual might be asked to provide a South Dakota driver’s license, state identification, or an affidavit of a corroborating witness confirming residency. The filing fees may vary by county, but on average, the filing fee for a divorce is $95, while the filing fee for the Answer is $25

Afterward, The summons and complaint must be “served” on the spouse to inform them of the divorce. It may be delivered by hand ( by the sheriff or a qualified process server )or by mail. The individual must then respond accordingly.

The defendant must then respond to the complaint within thirty (30) days of service. The response will determine how the divorce case will proceed.

The divorce may proceed in one of the following ways;

  • Default: This happens when a defendant does not respond or contest the complaint in any way within the stipulated time. In this case, the court may grant the divorce on the terms that favor the plaintiff.
  • Stipulation: When the parties agree on the divorce terms, they draw up and sign a written agreement called “stipulation” for the court judge to review and approve. This is used in divorce cases that state “irreconcilable differences” as the legal reason for the divorce.
  • Contested: The defendant files a formal answer to the complaint but disagrees with the divorce or the terms that the defendant has requested in the complaint. Now, the court will decide for the family using court trials. At these trials, the judge will decide these matters with evidence and testimonies of both parties and other witnesses.

How to File for Divorce in South Dakota Without a Lawyer?

In a contested divorce where spouses cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, hiring a lawyer is important. In contrast, hiring a lawyer and accruing more legal expenses is unnecessary for an uncontested divorce where both parties agree about everything.

This type of divorce is usually unproblematic and does not require filing with the help of a lawyer. Forms for applying for an uncontested divorce in South Dakota are obtainable from the Clerk of Courts in the county court where the divorce will be filed. They may also be available from the South Dakota Unified Judicial System website. These forms contain all required and helpful information that any individual will require to complete the forms adequately. Once the forms have been filled out and completed, the spouses must file them with the Clerk of Courts of the district court.

With all these requirements met, and the couple agrees on all the relevant divorce-related issues, they will be granted a divorce in a short amount of time with the lowest possible costs and emotional stress, unlike contested divorces.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Does South Dakota Divorce Mediation Work?

South Dakota mandates mediation in all divorces that involve disputes concerning child custody, child support, maintenance, and parenting time, except the case is one with a history of domestic violence. The process allows parents to address these issues with a uniform front and formulate convenient solutions with the assistance of a qualified mediator.

Occasionally, the court orders that the mediation process include custody evaluation, including a home and a psychological evaluation of the parties involved. The evaluation helps to guide better decisions that are in the child’s best interests.

Also, suppose the court simply determines that there is a reasonable chance of reconciliation between the individuals filing for a divorce. In that case, it might ask them to go through the mediation process. The cost of mediation and evaluations is usually divided between the parties. If an agreement is reached, the court will review the terms that the couple has agreed on to ensure fairness and equity. Eventually, the divorce is finalized with the entry of a judgment and decree of divorce. Otherwise, the case will become a contested divorce with court hearings and trials if the couple cannot agree. 

Asides from the possibility of a quicker and less costly divorce, the state courts encourage mediation because they allow parties to work together to solve their problems. As a result, they are more likely to cooperate with the terms and agreements that they created.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in South Dakota?

Mediations expedite divorces in South Dakota. After the parties have concluded the mediation process and reached an agreement, the court will review and sign the settlement documents within 60 days. However, the judgment or decree that finalizes the divorce will not be entered until the 61st day. In those 60 days, the court reviews the settlement agreement and all other paperwork associated with the divorce to ensure that there are no outstanding issues to be addressed.

Are Divorce Records Public in South Dakota? 

No, divorce records in South Dakota are not public records. They are usually protected from public view and only made available to a group of authorized individuals.

Hence, when requesting divorce records from the public agency that maintains the record, inquirers must show proof of their identity. 

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in. 

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get South Dakota Divorce Records?

The South Dakota Office of Vital Records maintains divorce Records. These records date back to 1905; however, the office offers only divorce certificates and not divorce decrees. A divorce certificate is proof of divorce that confirms that an event occurred and the place and day it did.

Divorce decrees contain the intricate details of the legalities surrounding the divorce people got divorced, when it took place, and where. While the certificates are obtainable from the office of vital statistics, the decrees are restricted to parties only, and they are obtainable from the court where the divorce was finalized. 

Interested individuals may request copies of the divorce certificate for $15 each by submitting a request to the Vital Office. They can be submitted online, in-person, or by mail. 

The requests must be accompanied by a completed Vital Records Request Form and a check/money order made payable to the Department of Health. They are also required to provide a valid, government-issued photo ID.

Mailing address

Vital Records Office

Department of Health

Suite 1A

207 E.Missouri Ave

Pierre, SD 57501

Inquirers can also obtain these records can also be obtained from the Clerk of the Court in the county where the divorce was finalized. Only a few authorized individuals can obtain the records on request. They include:

  • The subject of the record
  • Subject’s spouse and children
  • Parents and guardian
  • Attorney
  • Someone authorized by the subject of the record
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