South Dakota Custody and Visitation Schedules – Laws From the South Dakota Statutes

The South Dakota laws that direct how custody works in the state are found in Chapter 25-4 of the South Dakota Codified Laws. Within these laws, parents can find the necessary guidelines for creating an implementing a custody and visitation schedule. Since the custody schedule is such an important result of the custody proceeding, parents want to do everything they can to make sure that the court will accept it. Here are some of the laws that parents should know that affect the custody schedule. Understanding these laws can help parents get their schedules accepted by the state.

1. No preference for custody. Chapter 25-4-45 makes it very clear that the state has no preference for either parent regarding custody. The mother and father both have an equal chance to be the custodial parent. Thus, when a parent shows the custody schedule to the court, there need to be valid reasons why that schedule is the best one for the child. The court will want to know how they schedule fulfills the child’s needs, promotes the child’s welfare, etc.

2. The best interest of the child. Chapter 25-4-45 also explains that all custody matters must be settled in a way that benefits the child. Everything in the visitation schedule should be in the child’s best moral, mental, and physical best interest. Parents should think about what their child needs and make the schedule accordingly.

3. The child’s preference. The law specifies that as a child gets older, the child has more say in the custody and visitation schedule. The court will listen to the opinions and desires of a child regarding custody matters, and more weight is given to a more mature child. Parents can seek the opinion of the children when making the schedule. They should consider their children’s wishes as they make the schedule and they should talk to them about why they are putting certain things in the schedule, especially if they aren’t following the child’s wishes.

4. Factors that influence who gets custody. Chapter 25-4-45.5 and 45.6 contain some of the factors that the court does and does not consider when deciding which parent gets custody and how the parents will work out visitation. If a parent has been convicted of domestic abuse or other crimes, that parent may not be awarded any visitation in the agreement. There is the possibility for supervised visitation if a parent shows that they want to change. If a parent has been convicted of the death of the other parent they will also not receive visitation or custody.

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