Lawmakers in South Dakota to consider legislation granting joint custody in divorce cases

In South Dakota, primary physical custody is awarded at the outset of divorce proceedings to the parent who acts as the primary caregiver for the child/children. Understandably, this can cause great frustration for parents (i.e., fathers) who want to spend more time with their children.

Interestingly, the Judiciary Committee of the South Dakota House of Representatives last week passed House Bill 1255, a measure designed to address just this scenario.

Specifically, House Bill 1255 would compel judges to commence divorce proceedings with the rebuttable presumption that “both parents [will] have joint physical custody of their children.”

What exactly does this mean?

According to the language of the proposed legislation, it means that both parents would enjoy equal time-sharing with their child/children.

House Bill 1255 will now go before the entire House of Representatives for a full hearing. If passed, South Dakota would officially become the eighth state to sanction shared parenting.

At last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing, Joel Arends, a family law attorney acting on behalf of the organization Children Need Parents, testified that non-custodial parents often see their children an average of only three to six days per month.

“When mom and dad can’t get along, a fact of life is divorce, but also a fact of life is that parents need to be able to maintain custody of the child,” said Arends.

(It is worth noting that proponents of House Bill 1255 also highlighted – outside of the testimony before the House committee – a 2007 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that found that roughly 83 percent of all custodial parents were mothers.)

Opponents of the proposed legislation, however, argued that the bill would unduly hinder a family court judge’s ability to determine what is in the best interests of the child, and that South Dakota law already has provisions that enable a parent to petition for joint custody.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about child custody or visitation, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

(Please see the previous posts, “A Brief Examination of Parental Rights under Texas Law” and “A Brief Examination of Parental Rights under Texas Law – II” for more information on child custody in Texas.)

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Bill aimed at helping fathers in custody cases moves ahead The Argus Leader)

House Bill No. 1255 (State of South Dakota: Eighty-Six Session, Legislative Assembly, 2011)