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Changes to South Dakota’s Parenting Guidelines

Effective July 1, 2020, changes are coming to the South Dakota Parenting Guidelines (“Guidelines”).  These changes provide significantly more clarity to decrease arguments between parents as to what the Guidelines state.  Below are the changes you should be aware of:

Guideline 1: General Rules

  • The Guidelines will be enforceable as a court order. This comes into play when the parents are unable to agree on their own parenting plan.  If the parents can agree on their own parenting time schedule, then the parents are allowed to follow their own agreement. If they cannot agree, the Guidelines are mandatory and enforceable.  
  • Only the parents and school professional(s) can attend an academic or disciplinary meeting regarding the child(ren). For another party to attend a child’s academic or disciplinary meeting, there must be an advance mutual parental agreement or an order from the court.  This provision is new to the Guidelines.
  • Parental Vacations provisions removed from the general guidelines. This provided for a “usually equal” vacation time between the parents.
  • Parents are allowed phone calls with children no less than three days per week. Either parent can provide a cell phone, which cannot be taken away for punishment, but there can be reasonable restrictions set on the cell phone use while in the parent’s home.
  • Parents are entitled to the username and passwords of all social media accounts held by a minor child. Each parent has unlimited access to those accounts, unless it is private communication between the other parent and the child.
  • Parents CANNOT deny parenting time solely on the refusal of the children. Absent specific exceptions for child abuse, domestic abuse, substance abuse, long interruption of contact, abduction threats, and breastfeeding children parents are also directed to always encourage children to attend parenting time with the other parent.
  • Additional time with the non-custodial parent should be liberal and flexible. This section was moved to the general guidelines.  Changing this provision to the general section clarifies that the liberal and flexible non-custodial parenting time applies in all cases regardless of age of the minor or distance between parents.

Guideline 2:  Noncustodial Parenting Time with Children Under Age Five

  • The age ranges addressed under this Guideline are changed from “to” to “until.” This provides a more concrete age range as there was some ambiguity.  For example, the section on “Newborns – Birth to Three Months” could mean birth to the day the minor child is three months older or at some point during the third month of life.  The use of “until” makes the day the minor child turns three months old the cut-off date for that section of Guideline 2.
  • For breast feeding children, extends the direction that while breastfeeding for younger children must be accommodated, the parents must also cooperate in working out alternatives from until age 3 months to until age 6 months.
  • For preschoolers ages 3 to 5, two alternative parenting plans are provided. If the parents disagree on which plan to use, they must default to the first option until the Court orders otherwise.
  • Toddlers and preschool age children will alternate Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving in addition to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Before a child turns five, the non-custodial parent may exercise her or his normal length of parenting time beginning on the holiday.
  • Before a child’s 5th birthday, Mother’s Day will be spent with mom and Father’s Day with dad.
  • Each parent is entitled to up to two separate one-week vacation periods, if it does not conflict with the other parent’s holiday parenting time. Notice must be provided 30 days in advance of the vacation.  This can be completed by email, mail, or text message.

Guideline 3: Noncustodial Parenting Time Age Five and Older with Less than 200 Miles Between Custodial and Noncustodial Parents.

  • Summer vacation is calculated based on the day after school releases and the day before school begins. Each parent continues to be allowed one-half of the summer vacation.  However, the custodial parent may elect to include one full week prior to the start of school to be included in his or her parenting time to make sure the minor child is prepared for the upcoming school year.
  • Winter vacation is calculated in the same way as summer vacation. If winter vacation has an odd number of days, the non-custodial parent gets the extra day.
  • Holidays are alternated and recognized by the Guidelines so long as the school district the minor child attends also recognizes those holidays. Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween (3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.) are now included in the list of alternating holidays.
  • Birthdays are still alternated annually, however, the minor child’s birthday will be celebrated from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. if it falls on a weekday.
  • Each parent is entitled to a “usually equal” vacation for a “reasonable period of time.”

Guideline 4: Noncustodial Parenting Time Age Five and Older with More than 200 Miles Between Custodial and Noncustodial Parents.

  • The holiday and summer parenting time are separated into different sections. There is no modification to the holiday language.
  • The new “Summers” section, provides the time-frame for summers with the non-custodial parent which is “all but 10 days of the school summer vacation period.” The summer vacation period begins 3 days after school is released and ends one week before school begins, constituting the 10 days.

Guideline 5: Shared Parenting

  • The “Factors for Shared Parenting” is new and emphasizes that the court should consider the 23 factors in set forth in SDCL 25-4A-24 in determining shared parenting.

These changes were presented to and adopted by the South Dakota Supreme Court after the Court considered and weighed the written and oral arguments both for and against the revisions.