Alimony in South Dakota: An Overview

South Dakota has its own laws, regulations, and rules about alimony. If you know what they are, you can navigate the process much more easily. The following overview will provide you with an idea about what to expect if you have to deal with alimony during your divorce. 

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is money one spouse pays the other to make sure the receiving spouse can maintain a reasonable lifestyle after your divorce has been finalized. It is also known as “spousal support” or “maintenance,” and we will use these terms interchangeably in this article. 

Spouses may agree on alimony outside of court. Alternatively, a court may issue this order as a part of a divorce decree, in accordance with South Dakota divorce law. Notably, alimony and child support are different entities that your legal team will handle separately. 

Alimony Types for South Dakota

In South Dakota, a court could award four different kinds of alimony: 

  • Temporary alimony is ordered while your divorce is still pending. 
  • Rehabilitative alimony (aka restorative alimony) is support awarded to a spouse that helps him or her go to school or receive job training, in order to become self-supporting. Therefore, he or she may no longer need alimony after the rehabilitation period has ended. For instance, a justice may order this type of alimony to a spouse who stayed home to care for the couple’s children. 
  • Permanent alimony is granted on a long-term basis after the divorce is finalized. 

Is There a Formula for Spousal Support in South Dakota?

Despite the claims of some websites, there are no specific mathematical formulas you can use to calculate the precise amount of alimony you will receive or pay in South Dakota. 

The amount you will receive or pay varies, depending on your particular case and the many factors it involves. No two cases that are exactly alike, so it is impossible to determine how much the specific dollar amounts will be until the judge issues his or her order. 

In summation, everything is handled on a case-by-case basis in South Dakota. Unlike other states, the amount and duration of alimony are awarded at the discretion of the justice presiding over the case. 

Factors That Affect Alimony

When the time comes to make a case for alimony in South Dakota, your legal team and the court will have much to consider. Take a look at the many factors involved in figuring out what will affect your alimony payment or award, such as: 

  • The length of time you were married
  • The ability of each party to make a living
  • The age of each spouse
  • The physical and mental health of each spouse
  • The finances of each spouse after the marital property has been divided 
  • The spouse at fault for the dissolution (if any)

In the case of rehabilitative alimony, the courts will examine the following:

  • Whether one spouse contributed to the other’s education.
  • Whether one spouse gave up the chance to work or enhance his or her  skills during the course of your marriage.
  • The length of time the marriage was viable after the other party finished his or her education.

Finally, the judge will consider the size of each of the parties’ estates (e.g., the property that is gained from the division of marital property as stated by the divorce agreement) when the time comes time to determine the amount and requirement of alimony payments. He or she will consider the financial needs of both parties, including any dependents the requesting spouse has (e.g.,  a child with special needs). 

Custody of any children and child support will also have an impact on the alimony you will receive or pay. 

Some spouses who have custody of their children cannot support themselves because they have to be stay-at-home parents. For instance, a child may require round-the-clock care due to a chronic illness. 

When it comes to South Dakota alimony discussions, the standard of living is also considered. Therefore, when deciding an appropriate amount for the alimony award, the justice will factor in the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. 

Can You Alter Alimony?

Yes, it can be changed in South Dakota, but . the circumstances have to warrant it. For instance, a change in the payor spouse’s circumstances that prevents him or her from making payments (e.g., the loss of employment or assets) may be grounds for modifying the original agreement. In this situation, the payor spouse has to petition the court and provide substantial proof that the modification is justified. 

However, a no-alteration provision in the alimony agreement guarantees that support will continue, even if the payor spouse’s employment status changes for the worse. If you do not have this kind of provision in your support agreement, the state of South Dakota will have the final say in any changes that occur. In fact, most courts will allow modifications to take place if either party has a significant, warranted change of circumstances. 

What Is the Duration of Alimony?

In South Dakota, the length of time will be decided by a family court judge. This duration largely depends on the duration of the marriage. One common rule of thumb is that one year of spousal support will be paid for every three years of marriage. 

However, you can expect your case to be specifically adjudicated. But some situations automatically terminate alimony (e.g.,  the remarriage of the receiving spouse). 

What If You Fail to Pay Alimony?

If you do not follow a court order to pay spousal support, the debt goes into arrears, which the court will collect via mediation, wage-garnishment, or even small-claims court.  Furthermore, you could be charged with contempt of court.

If you feel troubled about the prospect of paying alimony, consider speaking with your spouse about the use of a South Dakota alimony mediator. You can certainly pursue your case through litigation. However, if you make use of a South Dakota alimony mediator, you can prevent going to court by handling issues such as property division. 

Does Adultery Affect Alimony?

Adultery is the reason for over 25 percent of all divorces in the United States. Since there are over one million divorces in the US every year, thousands of marriages end due to infidelity. 

While some states have no-fault policies about divorce, South Dakota considers each spouse’s fault in the breakdown of your marriage. Therefore, the requesting spouse can be denied spousal support due to unfaithfulness. 

If you want the court to factor in your spouse’s extramarital affair, you will have to provide evidence that it occurred. Therefore, be sure to speak with your legal team about ways to help you prove that adulterous actions were taking place.  

In South Dakota, infidelity is formally defined as voluntary sexual intercourse that takes place between a married person and an individual of the opposite gender who is not his or her spouse. 

Infidelity does not directly impact property division during the divorce process. However, if a spouse spent a huge amount of marital money on an affair, the court may give less property to that spouse as a result. For instance, a spouse may use marital savings to pay for a lavish vacation with his or her paramour. When the time comes to divide up the property, the court will absolutely take these actions into consideration. 

Remember, having an extramarital affair will not bar a spouse from getting alimony. But the more the affair had an impact on the breakdown of the marriage, the more it will be considered by the family court. If an affair occurred early on in the marriage that was condoned or even forgiven, it will probably not have an impact effect on a spouse’s rights to support payments. 

Conclusion

Divorce is never easy to navigate. For the best advice about your case and to  answer your questions about alimony in South Dakota, be sure to consult with your legal team. 

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