The Swier Law Firm Family Law FAQs

The Swier Law Firm Family Law FAQs


Have questions? We have answers! Our South Dakota attorneys answer the questions they hear most often from clients just like you.

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  • What does it mean to mediate a South Dakota divorce?

    Mediation sessions take place outside of court and under the supervision of a neutral mediator. The mediator can direct the negotiation process and ensure that all topics are covered in the settlement. A couple is able to create and customize a divorce settlement that meets their unique needs. This includes child custody, parenting schedules, alimony, child support, property division, and any other relevant issues.

  • What are the advantages of mediation in a South Dakota divorce?

    The advantages of mediating a South Dakota divorce include:

    • It's Quicker. A divorce may be completed faster through mediation.
    • It's Less Expensive. Mediation usually costs less than an adversarial hearing in court.
    • It Allows For A Better Relationship. Couples who go through mediation are more likely to leave the marriage with a more positive relationship because it avoids the conflicts that accompany going to court.   
    • It's Less Stressful. Mediation is a non-binding and non-adversarial proceeding. 

  • In South Dakota, is a stepparent required to support his spouse's children?

    Yes. A stepparent must maintain his spouse’s children born prior to their marriage and is responsible as a parent for their support and education. However, this responsibility does not release the natural or adoptive parents of the children from their support obligations.

  • How is child support figured in South Dakota?

    In South Dakota, the amount of support each parent pays depends on income and time spent with the child. South Dakota sets a base support amount according to the child support guidelines, which are simply a fee schedule, but the final amount of support a court will order could be quite different. Other costs including the child’s medical care must be included. Also, a court can adjust the amount of support either up or down to better meet the child’s needs.

  • Can South Dakota courts award alimony in a divorce?

    Yes. In South Dakota, alimony is also known as spousal support. “General” alimony is financial support paid by one spouse to another. The legal basis of alimony is that divorce should not cause a dependent spouse to become impoverished or suffer a drastic reduction in his lifestyle. In other words, general alimony is intended to help the lower income spouse in providing for food, clothing, housing, and other necessities.

    The purpose of alimony is to support the needs and standard of living of the spouse, not to equalize incomes. While a divorce action is pending, the court may require one spouse to pay as alimony any money necessary to support the other spouse or the children of the parties.

    For more information about alimony in South Dakota, download The South Dakota Child Custody and Divorce Handbook™.

  • Is same-sex marriage legal in South Dakota?

    Yes. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States - including South Dakota.

  • In South Dakota, can I change my premarital agreement after I'm married?

    It depends. In South Dakota, once the parties have been married, a premarital agreement may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by the parties.

    For more information about premarital agreements in South Dakota, click here.

  • Is my premarital agreement enforceable in South Dakota?

    Maybe. A "premarital agreement" is an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage. A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties.

    For more information about whether your premarital agreement will "hold up" in South Dakota, click here.

  • What is South Dakota's Shared Parenting Law?

    South Dakota's "Shared Parenting Law" went into effect on July 1, 2014. The new law does not establish a presumption of shared parenting and the court will still have the final say in determining custody. The law does however, encourage the use of shared parenting in divorces.

    Joint physical custody of a minor child shall be considered by the court, upon application of either parent in any custody dispute. This is a significant change from the prior law which required the parents to agree in order to have "shared parenting" ordered. 

    If a party is filing a modification of custody, that party still has the burden of proving a substantial change in circumstances. The fact that this law has changed is not enough to meet that burden without other substantial changes.

  • How long does it take to get a divorce in South Dakota?

    In South Dakota, the "waiting period" is the time between the start of the divorce proceeding and the time the court signs the decree granting the divorce. The waiting period in a South Dakota divorce is a minimum of sixty (60) days after your spouse is served with the divorce papers.  

    For more about divorce law in our state, download The South Dakota Child Custody and Divorce Handbook™.