1. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A "CUSTODIAL" PARENT AND A "NONCUSTODIAL" PARENT?
When a child lives primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other parent, the parent with whom the child primarily lives (called the “custodial” parent) has sole or primary physical custody, and the other parent (called the “noncustodial” parent) has the right to visitation or parenting time with the child.
2. WHAT IS VISITATION?
Visitation is the time that the noncustodial parent spends with the child. Typically, visitation includes overnight and extended periods of time spent with the noncustodial parent in his or her home. However, in some circumstances, visitation can be supervised.
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3. WHAT IS "JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY"?
In any custody dispute between parents, a court may order “joint legal custody.” This arrangement allows both parents to maintain full parental rights and responsibilities. It also requires that both parents confer on, and participate in, major decisions affecting their child.
In ordering joint legal custody, a court may consider the parent’s desires and may provide to one parent the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare. A court may also divide these aspects between the parents based on the child’s best interests. If it appears to be in the child’s best interests, the court may order, or the parties may agree, how these responsibilities will be divided.
These areas of responsibility may include the child’s primary physical residence, child care, education, extracurricular activities, medical and dental care, religious instruction, the child's use of motor vehicles, and any other responsibilities which a court finds unique to a particular family or in the child’s best interests.
4. WHAT IS A "SHARED PARENTING PLAN"?
Under a “shared parenting plan,” the parents agree that the minor child will reside no less than one hundred eighty nights per calendar year in each parent’s home, and that the parents will share the duties and responsibilities of parenting the children and the expenses of the children in proportion to their incomes.
5. WHAT STANDARD GUIDES A COURT'S CHILD CUSTODY DECISION?
In South Dakota, as in most other states, a court’s child custody and visitation decision is guided by what is in the child’s “best interests.”
6. WHAT FACTORS DOES A COURT CONSIDER IN AWARDING CHILD CUSTODY?
A court can consider these facts in awarding child custody:
- Parental Fitness
- Primary Caretaker
- Child’s Preference
- Harmful Parental Misconduct
- Separation of Siblings
- Substantial Change in Circumstances
For more about child custody law in our state, download The South Dakota Child Custody and Divorce Handbook™.