Divorce in South Dakota: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated March 26, 2024by Unbiased team

If you’re initiating proceedings or currently going through a divorce, this article will take you through the processes and costs associated with divorce in South Dakota.


  • In South Dakota, individuals can pursue either a "no-fault" or "fault-based" divorce, depending on their situation.

  • “No-fault” divorces are usually preferred as they work out cheaper and are generally faster to obtain. 

  • “Fault-based” divorces are more complex and can impact decisions on alimony, asset division, and child custody.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, individuals can pursue either a "no-fault" or "fault-based" divorce, depending on their situation.

  • “No-fault” divorce: This type of divorce does not require proof of fault. It's based on "irreconcilable differences," indicating the marriage cannot be repaired. 

  • “Fault-based” divorce: Requires demonstrating the other spouse's fault, with grounds including:

    • Adultery

    • Extreme cruelty

    • Willful desertion for at least a year

    • Willful neglect for at least a year

    • Habitual intemperance for at least a year

    • Conviction of a felony

    • Chronic mental illness for five or more years

“No-fault” divorces are usually preferred as they work out cheaper and are generally faster to obtain. “Fault-based” divorces are more complex and can impact decisions on alimony, asset division, and child custody.

How much does a divorce cost in South Dakota?

The financial aspect of divorce in South Dakota encompasses several costs, from legal fees to court charges. 

Here are some of the most common fees associated with getting a divorce in South Dakota:

  1. Filing fees: The initial step in filing for divorce is to pay a filing fee to the court. This fee is mandatory and varies by county, typically ranging from $95 to $150. It's essential to check with your local courthouse for the exact amount.

  2. Attorney fees: Legal representation is one of the most significant expenses in a divorce. Attorney fees depend on the complexity of your case and the lawyer's hourly rate. An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on major issues, will cost less in attorney fees than a contested divorce.

  3. Additional costs: Besides filing and attorney fees, other expenses may include:

    • Mediation fees, if the couple chooses to mediate their divorce.

    • Court costs for filing motions or other legal documents.

    • Costs associated with dividing assets, such as appraisals or business valuations.

It's crucial to note that each divorce is unique, and costs can vary. Seeking financial advice early on in proceedings can help you understand the potential expenses and prepare accordingly.

How do you file for divorce in South Dakota?

To initiate a divorce in South Dakota, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Choose your divorce type: Opt for either a no-fault or fault-based divorce.

  2. Prepare documents: Essential paperwork includes:

    • Complaint for Divorce

    • Summons

    • Financial Affidavits (if applicable)

  3. File with the court: Submit your documents at the local circuit court and pay the filing fee.

  4. Serve your spouse: Legally notify your spouse of the divorce filing. This must be done within a specified timeframe, usually within 30 days of filing.

  5. Await a response: There is a waiting period for your spouse to respond, which can vary but is typically 30 days.

  6. Finalize your divorce: The finalization process may require:

    • Mediation or negotiation if there are disputes

    • A court hearing for contested divorces

    • Submission of a final divorce decree by a judge

How do you split assets in a divorce in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, dividing assets during a divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means the division is fair but not necessarily equal. 

The first step in this process is to identify your marital property. This includes all assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Separate property, acquired before the marriage or through inheritance/gifts, is usually not divided.

Next, all marital property is appraised to determine its value.

Once appraised, the couple can choose to divide the assets among themselves. If they can't reach an agreement, the court considers several factors to divide assets fairly, such as:

  • Each spouse’s economic circumstances

  • Contributions to marital property, including homemaking and childcare

  • The value of each spouse’s separate property

  • Any marital misconduct affecting financial status

  • Custody arrangements for children

Similar to assets, debts incurred during the marriage are divided between the spouses based on their ability to pay and other relevant factors.

How does alimony work in South Dakota?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a financial payment one spouse may be required to make to the other during or after a divorce. 

Not every divorce case results in alimony. It's awarded based on one party's need and the other's ability to pay, considering the standard of living established during the marriage.

South Dakota recognizes several types of spousal support, including:

  • Temporary: Support during the divorce process.

  • Short-term: For rehabilitation, usually to help a spouse gain employment skills.

  • Permanent: Granted in cases of long marriages or when the recipient cannot become self-sufficient.

When determining if it will grant alimony, and if so, how much, the court considers various factors in determining alimony, such as:

  • Length of the marriage

  • Each spouse’s financial condition and earning capacity

  • Contributions to the marriage, including childcare and education

  • Age and health of the recipient spouse

Alimony orders can be modified or terminated based on significant changes in circumstances, like a substantial increase or decrease in either party's income.

What happens to children during a divorce in South Dakota?

South Dakota emphasizes arrangements that serve the best interests of the child, focusing on custody, support, and the child's overall welfare.

Parents are encouraged to develop a parenting plan that outlines how they will share custody and make decisions for their child or children. If parents cannot agree, the court will impose a plan considering the child's best interests.

The court will make a ruling in the following areas:

  • Custody Considerations: Custody can be categorized as either legal (decision-making authority) or physical (where the child lives). South Dakota courts consider several factors when determining custody, including:

    • The wishes of the parents and the child

    • The child’s relationship with each parent

    • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community

    • The mental and physical health of all parties involved

  • Child Support: Both parents are obligated to support their child financially. South Dakota uses established guidelines to calculate child support, considering the income of both parents, the number of children, and other relevant expenses.

  • Visitation Rights: The non-custodial parent typically has the right to reasonable visitation. South Dakota recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with both parents unless contact with one parent is deemed harmful to the child.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor suited to meet your needs. 

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.