Historic Divorce Capital of the Nation, South Dakota, Seeks Recognition

One state stands out in American history as “divorce capital of the nation” around the turn of the 20th century: South Dakota.

At one point, the state’s residency requirement was just three months and several different grounds for divorce were available. In an era when residency was typically one year and the only ground was adultery.

Examples of grounds for which divorce was granted in the South Dakota of that era include:

  1. the wife repeatedly put her cold feet on her husband’s back
  2. the wife wouldn’t bathe

For reasons like the above, South Dakota attracted unhappy wealthy couples from around the nation, who were in search of a quick, private divorce.

More than six thousand divorces were entered over a twenty year span. Two-thirds of them for people from out of state.

The divorce industry spurred the local real estate market, because couples needed a local home to establish residency. And contributed to relatively high local income.

To commemorate South Dakota’s historic distinction, the Minnehaha County Historical Society would like to erect a marker in Sioux Falls.

Read more in this KXMC TV Minot [SD] News article: Marker would recognize “divorce capital” and this Rapid City [SD] Journal article: Sioux Falls: Divorce capital of the world.