How to File for Divorce in South Dakota

How to file divorce in South Dakota

Filing for divorce can be a stressful and emotional time. These things can lead to mistakes throughout the divorce process and those mistakes can be costly.

The best thing that you can do to be successful during your divorce is to arm yourself with the information you’ll need as early on in the process as possible.

Here are some of the important things to know when filing for divorce in South Dakota:

What Information Should I Gather to Prepare for Divorce in South Dakota?

important information

Divorce involves a lot of paperwork and documentation. That’s why it’s critical to start as early as possible in the process by gathering what you’ll need. Staying organized is also essential for minimizing stress, time and costs.

For a good overview of the information you’ll need, check out our article, The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Divorce Discovery

Determining Which Divorce Procedure to Use

Divorce Procedure to Use

The type of divorce you choose depends in large part on how cooperative you are with your spouse and if you are able to reach a settlement on your own or not.

Every case is different, so the process you choose is not always a “one size fits all” type of scenario.

To see what your options are, check out our complete guide on our complete guide on the Types of Divorce. It will give you a good understanding of your options before you make a final decision.

Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Divorce Mediation

What Forms Do I Need?

Necessary Forms to Prepare

If you retain an attorney, they will help you prepare the necessary form that a specific to your case.

If you wish to handle your divorce yourself, you are responsible for preparing and filing all necessary documents. Forms for most situations are available here.

A good place to start might be with UJS 300 – A Guide for Representing Yourself in SD Courts.

Court personnel and clerks must remain neutral in all court cases and will not give you legal advice, though they may be able to answer some questions.

How Do I File My Forms?

How Do You File Your Forms for a Divorce

Make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original.

You will give one copy to the court, one to the other spouse, and keep the last one for yourself.

Go to the local courthouse where you or your spouse are living to file your paperwork. You’ll need to pay a fee unless you request a fee waiver and it is granted by the courts.

Assemble a packet for your spouse that includes everything you filed plus the summons.

Serve your spouse as soon as possible thereafter.

How Do I Serve My Forms on My Spouse?

Whenever you file for divorce, you must arrange to have the Summons and Complaint delivered to the other spouse to officially notify them of your intentions.

You can complete service by hiring a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server to complete the task. Personal service can also be done by any credible person over 18 who is not involved in the case.

An Affidavit or Certificate of Service form proving that the person received the papers must be filled out and filed at the Clerk’s office.

If the person you are divorcing lives out of state or you don’t know how to locate them you can complete service by publication. This requires placing an ad in a local newspaper for several weeks. The newspaper will then provide you with proof of publication which you will submit to the court.

After you are served, you have 20 days to respond to the complaint otherwise your spouse can seek a summary judgment without your involvement.

What are the Steps for Getting a Divorce?

After you file paperwork with the court and proof of service has been completed, you must wait for a reply from your spouse. They have 20 days to respond after receiving paperwork.

If you can work out all issues, then at the end of a 60-day waiting period, you can request the judge to grant your divorce.

If you have unresolved issues, you’ll need to negotiate how to best resolve them. Sometimes this involves mediation, arbitration, or other similar processes.

When you can’t reach an agreement, you will need to go to trial and present evidence and testimony in front of a judge. The judge will decide the issues and render a final settlement.

Every divorce is different, and additional steps may be involved, but this is the general framework that most cases follow.

FAQs About Getting a Divorce in South Dakota

How much does it cost to file for a divorce?

cost to file for a divorce

Review South Dakota’s “Schedule of Court Costs” to see how much it will cost to complete your divorce action.

Can divorce fees be waived?

In some cases, you may be able to request a fee waiver if you can prove you meet financial limitations. To request a waiver, fill out and file “Motion to Waive Filing Fee & Service of Process Fee.”

You will also need to submit a completed “Financial Affidavit” to explain your financial situation and request the waiver.

Bring these forms to the clerk of courts when you file for divorce.

Can I file for divorce online?

divorce online

No. You can work with a service or a private attorney to get your paperwork in order, but you will need to file for divorce at your local South Dakota courthouse when you are ready.

The best service to get your paperwork in order is 3 Step Divorce, and I highly recommend it if online help interests you.

3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.

They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.

From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:

  • Affordable
    • $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
  • Flexible
    • Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
  • Fast
    • Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
  • Informative
    • Library of free tools and resources
  • Supportive
    • Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
  • Instantaneous
    • Immediate access to completed forms
  • Guaranteed
    • Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)

3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).

3 Step Divorce Rating

You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.

Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).

Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

Yes. There is no law that says you need an attorney to handle your divorce case in South Dakota.

What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce?

You must be a resident of South Dakota at the time you file for divorce, and you must remain living in the state until your divorce is complete. There are no other residency requirements.

How long does it take to get a divorce in South Dakota?

How long does it take

In South Dakota, with an uncontested divorce, after you file paperwork, your spouse has 20 days to file an answer with the court. There is a 60-day waiting period before your divorce can be finalized by the court. It may take a bit longer due to case backlogs and judge’s availability.

If you can’t resolve all your issues ahead of time, you will have to either negotiate various parts of the settlement or go to trial. These types of actions generally take several months to resolve.

In a litigated and complex divorce action, a two-year timeframe is not uncommon.

Can I file for divorce while I’m pregnant?

divorce while I am pregnant

You can file for divorce in South Dakota while you’re pregnant, but most judges will not allow you to get a divorce until after the baby is born. This makes it easier to determine who the father is, and to resolve child support and custody issues.

When two people are married, paternity is automatically determined with the child is born. In all cases, the husband is the presumed to be the father.

If two people are not married when the child is born a judge may require a paternity test to clear up any questions.

If I (or my spouse) is in the military, how does that affect my divorce?


If you or your spouse are in the military and either live or are stationed in South Dakota, some parts of your divorce will be the same and some parts will be different.

For example, grounds for a military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce.

Federal protections give active members and their spouses certain rights, including those contained in the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982.

If you are an active service member and your spouse serves papers on you, it’s possible to delay your response if your military service conflicts with handling your divorce. You can do this for the entire time you are active duty, plus an additional 60 days after your active service ends.

This is a protection afforded under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

If the active service member agrees, and the case is uncontested, the active duty spouse may not have to be served. Instead, he or she can simply sign a waiver to acknowledge the divorce.

Each branch of the military has legal assistance on most bases. This does not include representing a service member or their spouse in a divorce action, but resources are available to answer questions and provide guidance. Spouses of service members may also seek help as well.

Child support is the same as it is in civilian divorces in South Dakota. However, there is a rule in place that limits this support to no more than 60% of a service members’ pay and allowances.

Non-military spouses can get health care coverage under TRICARE if they were married for least 20 years during the member’s active service. This is often referred to as the 20/20/20 rule. Lifetime TRICARE coverage is dependent on the former spouse remaining unmarried. If the former spouse remarries, they will lose TRICARE coverage permanently.

A military version of COBRA coverage is available. It is called the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). If the military member leaves the service, the former spouse who buys CHCBP is covered for 36 months after the date of divorce. In some cases, this coverage can be extended for a longer period.

Military pensions can be shared by whatever means a judge thinks is fair. However, federal laws prevent the distribution of the military member’s retirement assets to the spouse unless they were married 10 years or longer while the member was on active service.

It might be wise to consult with an attorney who specializes in military divorces since they can be a complicated blend of military and civilian rules.

Looking for more essential information about divorce? Read some of our most popular articles.

Even More South Dakota Resources >>

Related Content