SD Re-Evaluates Child Custody Laws

Some legislators in South Dakota are working to revamp much of the state’s child custody laws that reportedly are not serving the divorced parents of the state, or their children, well. Their stated goal is to focus on the best interests of kids.

Under current South Dakota law, temporary custody of children is apparently awarded to the parent who has been the primary caregiver for the thirty days prior to filing. Unfortunately, a snapshot of such a short slice of life may not accurately reflect which parent has been the primary caregiver over the longer haul.

The new proposed legislation increases the thirty day period to twelve months. That is a much more realistic indicator.

Under current South Dakota law, violation of visitation or custody orders may be punished by fines or imprisonment. Judges have allegedly withheld those sanctions as too harsh.

The new proposed legislation allows more flexible remedies / sanctions, such as ordering attendance of parenting classes, awarding makeup visitation time and awarding legal fees.

Interestingly, the new proposed legislation contemplates “joint legal custody” (what Florida calls “shared parenting responsibility”) but not that both parents “equally participate” in major decisions concerning their children.

Many South Dakotan legal commentators, however, anticipate increased litigation over less than perfect implementations of joint legal custody.

Beware state-specific definitions.

Read more in this South Coast Massachusetts Standard Times article: Child custody, visitation issues considered.