As in any other state, when determining custody over minor children, the courts of South Dakota are always guided by the child's best interests. It is the court’s wish that the child can grow up in a favorable atmosphere and not have a traumatic experience due to the parental divorce.
The following factors can influence child custody decisions:
- the wishes of the child regarding custody, provided that the child is at least 12 years old and he/she can think sensibly;
- the wishes and preferences of each parent regarding the custody;
- the child's basic needs, including medical care, insurance, education;
- the physical place of residence of the child;
- parenting plan provisions;
- emotional contacts of the child with parents and close relatives;
- and any cases of violence or abuse in the family.
If any cases of family violence are reported, then most likely, the parent who committed such an act will not be able to become the primary custodian of the child. Besides this, the court shall carefully consider the behavior of each parent during the marriage before determining who would be the best custodian.
In South Dakota, the primary custodian has physical custody of the child and is in charge of the daily maintenance and care of the child. The non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent and has visitation rights.