Uncontested Divorce in South Dakota
Understanding the uncontested divorce process in South Dakota.
Divorce is never easy, but some divorces are far cheaper, faster and less painful than others. There is a way to avoid having your divorce turn into a made-for-TV-movie, but a low-conflict divorce depends primarily on the relationship of the divorcing spouses. For couples that can cooperate, compromise and communicate effectively, an uncontested divorce is a great option.
This article provides a general overview of uncontested divorces in South Dakota. If after reading this article, you still have questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Overview of Uncontested Divorces in South Dakota
Uncontested divorces are typically much cheaper than contested divorces and can save the spouses the headache and stress associated with going to court. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all major issues in the divorce, including child custody and support. For more information on how to calculate child support in South Dakota,click here.
Before filing for an uncontested divorce, all the following issues must be resolved between the spouses:
- custody of any minor children and/or visitation arrangements
- child support, health and dental insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses
- division of real property
- division of debts and assets
- spousal support or alimony, and
- any other issues related to the marriage.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on any of the above issues, your divorce will be considered contested, and your case will need to proceed to trial where a judge will resolve your disagreements.
Beginning an Uncontested Divorce
South Dakota maintains an informative state website to help spouses who want to file for divorce on their own atwww.ujs.sd.gov. The uncontested divorce forms are available in the self-help section of the state’s website for spouses with and without children who want to obtain a divorce.
However, to begin the divorce process in South Dakota, you or your spouse must be domiciled in the state, meaning you have lived in South Dakota for at least one day and intend to make the state your permanent home. Additionally, as a pro se (unrepresented) litigant, you will be responsible for filing the correct forms in the right court. There are 17 circuit courts in South Dakota - the circuit courts are the state’s trial courts and oversee divorce proceedings. You will typically file the divorce paperwork in the county circuit court where you and/or your spouse live. If you have separated from your spouse and live in different counties, you may file your paperwork in either county’s circuit court.
Preparing the Divorce Forms
The forms required to complete an uncontested divorce in South Dakota can be found here or in person at your local county courthouse. Court clerks are unable to provide you with legal advice; however, South Dakota’s state website provides a checklist for those filing for divorce to help you through the process. Additionally, the South Dakota State Bar operates a program called Access to Justice for those spouses who are trying to represent themselves in a divorce
Unlike some other states, South Dakota does not accept joint divorce petitions, even for uncontested divorces. Instead, the spouse who prepares and files the initial paperwork, the "plaintiff," must ensure that the following documents are filed with the court before a divorce may be granted:
- Summons signed by Plaintiff
- Complaint signed by Plaintiff
- Proof of Service of Spouse (admission of service or sheriff’s return of service)
- Stipulated Agreement signed by both spouses before a notary public
- Affidavit of Defendant’s Non-Military Status
- Affidavit of Jurisdiction and Grounds (SDCL Section 25-4-17.3) signed by the plaintiff and notarized, and
- Proposed Final Judgment or Decree of Divorce.
Completing the Divorce
After all the proper forms have been filed with the court, the next step is to simply wait. Even for uncontested divorces, South Dakota requires spouses to wait 60 days from the date the divorce paperwork is filed until the divorce is actually granted.
There are no court hearings required for an uncontested divorce in South Dakota. Instead, if there are no problems with the divorce paperwork, once the 60-day waiting period expires, a judge will sign the Final Judgment or Decree of Divorce and the divorce will become final.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in South Dakota, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance. For more information on uncontested divorces in South Dakota, see South Dakota Codified Laws, Chapter 25-4, et seq.