South Dakota Supreme Court Awards Child Custody Based On … Child Support, Mostly, In One Case Anyway

South Dakota Mother and Father split up before 5 year old Son is born.

Couple fight over custody and child support.

Mother is awarded temporary primary custody of Son, and Father is ordered to pay monthly temporary child support of $150. Later the amount is upped to $363.

Father continues to pay $150 for the next two years though. Father blames it on cash-flow problems in his farming business.

At trial, the court dismisses the child support issues as irrelevant to custody, and awards primary custody of Son to Father. Further, the Father manages to clear his arrearages by the second day of the trial.

But the main reason the trial court awards primary custody to Father is that Mother is allegedly alienating Son from Father.

On appeal, however, South Dakota’s highest court appears to second-guess the trial court’s factual findings, specifically rejecting the trial court’s finding that Mother has alienated Son from Father.

The South Dakota Supreme Court goes on to conclude that it would not be in Son’s best interests for Father to have primary custody, because Father hasn’t adequately provided for Son financially when Son was living with Mother.

Two judges dissent. The dissent seems more consistent with legal trends beyond South Dakota’s borders.

Read more in this Sioux City [IA] Journal article: Supreme Court overturns child custody ruling.