If you decide to end your marriage, you and your spouse must settle all divorce-related issues. For example, if you and your spouse have minor children, you'll have to decide how much time each parent is going to spend with them and the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay. You'll also have to divide your property and debts.
To start the divorce process while representing yourself, you'll need to complete some forms. You can obtain the forms online from the South Dakota Unified Judicial System's forms index. These are official forms, but you should double-check with your local court to make sure the judges there will accept them.
Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. If not, write or print neatly and legibly.
The forms the court requires you to complete differ depending on whether you have children and also on whether you are the plaintiff (the spouse who initiates the divorce) or the defendant (the spouse who receives divorce papers). If you and your spouse have minor children (meaning, kids who are financially dependent on you and who aren't legally emancipated), you need to use "Divorce with Minor Children" forms. But if you don't have any minor children together, you should use the "Divorce Without Minor Children" forms.
If you and your spouse have minor children and don't agree on the terms of your divorce:
If you and your spouse have minor children and agree to all terms of your divorce:
If you and your spouse don't have minor children and don't agree on the terms of your divorce:
If you and your spouse don't have children and agree to all terms of the divorce:
When you're ready, make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually, you will give one copy to the court, one to the other spouse, and keep the last one for yourself.
Go to your local courthouse (the one where you or your spouse are living) and ask to file the documents that you read and completed earlier. You'll need to pay a fee of $95 unless you complete the "Affidavit of Indigency" (UJS 305), and the court agrees to waive the fees because you can't afford it.
Ask the court clerk to give you two copies, then assemble a packet for your spouse that includes everything you filed plus the summons. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving.
If you're a defendant, it's critical to remember that you have to file an answer within 20 days of being served with the plaintiff's papers. Otherwise the plaintiff can ask for a default judgment, which means that the divorce is entered solely on your spouse's terms without input from you.
When you've prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents. Service is required to give your spouse notice about what's going on and an opportunity to appear in court and provide an answer to your complaint.
If your spouse is proceeding without a lawyer, then you should serve your spouse at his or her home address. If your spouse has retained a lawyer, serve the lawyer at the lawyer's office.
If you're the plaintiff and you're serving the Summons and Complaint, special service rules apply. The first option is that you hire a professional process server or a law enforcement official (like a Sheriff or constable) to serve the documents personally, then complete an Affidavit of Personal Service.
The second option is that you send the materials to your spouse if and only if you believe your spouse will sign and return a Notice and Admission of Service of Summons and Complaint within 20 days.
You can serve virtually all other documents by first class mail or hand delivery. (SD Codified L § 15-6-4(c) (2018).)
Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone very hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail. Check with your clerk of court for more information in these unusual situations.
Both spouses have to complete a Financial Affidavit (UJS 304), which is a statement sworn in front of a notary public that details each spouse's financial picture, from employment to assets to liabilities and monthly expenses.
A financial affidavit helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support is appropriate, or whether one spouse should receive alimony. Make sure you are clear, detailed, and candid when you complete this form. File it with the court and serve it upon your spouse, as well.
The South Dakota Unified Judicial System and the University of South Dakota Law School run a helpline you can call for help with forms. The phone number is 1-855-784-0004. You can also access divorce forms and instructions on the South Dakota Legal Self-Help page.