South Dakota Child Custody Laws

Dad teaching son how to tie shoes

Child custody laws affect many families across the United States every year. They are an important part of what will determine a parenting arrangement after a divorce or separation. These laws are not the same in every state, which makes it necessary to know the laws of your state in particular. Here is information about what you might expect while determining child custody in South Dakota.

Primary concerns in South Dakota child custody cases

As in many other states, the primary concern in determining a child custody arrangement is resolving what is in the best interests of the child. A South Dakota court will carefully review a variety of factors to help them determine a child's best interests both physically and emotionally. These factors will include the wellness of each parent and the level of stability they can offer to the child, the family history in terms of abuse or violence, and the willingness of parents to work together as coparents moving forward. Parents who advocate for their child to have a relationship with the other parent are more likely to receive more parental responsibilities in the outcome of the case. Also, it is possible that the wishes of the child will be considered in determining the custody arrangement, but this will only be the case if the court sees the child as mature enough to make intelligent decisions. 

In South Dakota, the preferred arrangement will be for both parents to have consistent contact with their child. This allows the child the chance to continue cultivating close relationships with both of their parents. This is the ideal situation, and it the custody order is more likely to allow for this if parents are able to communicate amicably and work together for the good of their child. Parents are even able to work together and create a parenting plan of their own, which will likely be implemented if there is no objection on either side and the plan works in the child's best interests. It parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, one will be set for them. 

Types of child custody recognized by South Dakota laws

Both physical and legal custody must both be decided upon when developing a child custody order. Legal custody concerns how decisions will be made for for a child concerning important matters like education and medical care. These responsibilities may be granted to both parents in a joint arrangement, or it may only be allocated to one in a sole arrangement. On the other hand, physical custody concerns where the children will live and how their time will be spent between their parents' homes. Physical custody may call for one parent's home to be the primary residence of the child while the other parent is granted ample visitation. Beyond just parents, South Dakota laws see a child's contact with their relatives and family friends as important and beneficial for everyone. It is encouraged that children spend time with both sides of their extended family. Also, South Dakota child custody laws also call for parents to allow their child to communicate in reasonable amounts with their other parent during the time that they are away from that parent. This could be by phone, email, text, or other means of electronic communication. 

South Dakota child custody laws encourage parents to communicate in a courteous manner in regards to their child's daily needs and overall well being. Communication could take place between parents face-to-face, by phone, email, or text. Some parents might consider using a online co-parenting communication tool to facilitate this need to talk and share information about their kids. The OurFamilyWizard website gives co-parents a space to record their shared parenting schedule, maintain and update family vital details, track shared expenses, send messages between each other, and more. Being able to have all of this information available from one place helps to make parenting across two homes much easier. 

This information is meant to inform you of what you might expect if you are going through a child custody case in South Dakota, but it should not be considered as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help in understanding child custody laws in South Dakota and to offer guidance in your situation in particular. For family law resources in your area, check out our Resources page for South Dakota


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.