South Dakota Parenting Guidelines
When parents separate or divorce, they or the Courts must determine what physical custody and parenting time schedule is in the best interest of their child(ren). The South Dakota Legislature ordered the Supreme Court to establish standard guidelines to be used statewide for minimum noncustodial parenting time. Many parents elect to follow these guidelines.
The Supreme Court recently modified the standard guidelines, but many parents are not aware of the changes unless they are actively engaged in a current custody action. If an existing custody order references the South Dakota Parenting Guidelines, the recent changes may immediately go into effect July 1, 2020 depending on the language of the parent’s specific court order.
Below are a few of the specific changes to the guidelines. A parent should talk to his or her lawyer about how the new guidelines may be construed and applied to his or her parenting plan. Pertinent changes include:
- The guidelines now state that only parents should attend academic and disciplinary meetings for a minor child, such as parent-teacher conferences. This provision may exclude extended family, significant others, and perhaps even step-parents, from attending these meetings, unless the parents otherwise agree.
- With the increased usage of cell phones by minor children, the Supreme Court clarified contact between a parent and child outside of parenting time and what restrictions may be placed on the child’s cell phone while the child is in the parent’s care. A parent may have at least three phone calls with the child per week when the child is not in the calling parent’s care. A parent should not take a cell phone away from a child simply to deny communication with the other parent, but a parent has the right to set reasonable restrictions on cell phone use while the child is present in that parent’s home.
- Children are also more active on social media now, so the guidelines include a provision that parents are entitled to the username and passwords to all social media accounts of the minor child. Each parent shall have full access to the social media accounts, except for private communications between the other parent and the child. Account information for Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Tic Toc, Twitter, and the like should be shared with both parents.
- Many parents question what they should do if a child does not want to participate in scheduled time with the other parent. The guidelines now clearly set forth that parents may not deny parenting time solely based on the refusal of the children. In these events, the parent should consult an attorney to discuss options.
- Overall, the updates remove significant ambiguity in the parenting schedules by specifying a plan that applies in the event the parties cannot agree. And, generally speaking, the new guidelines slightly extend a noncustodial parent’s time with younger children.
- The new guidelines clarify the summer and holiday schedule for younger children (ages 1-4). The holidays that are shared during these ages are limited, and the guidelines do not provide for an extended summer vacation because the child is not yet in school. A two week vacation is allowed for three and four-year-olds.
- The guidelines for children five and older were also clarified to remove points of contention, such as what occurs if the winter vacation from school is an odd number of days, and by adding Halloween as a shared holiday.
- For noncustodial parents who live 200 miles or more away from the other parent, the summer parenting time has been increased from all but three weeks of the summer vacation from school to all but 10 days of the summer vacation from school. However, the summer vacation period is reduced by clearly beginning the summer vacation period three days after school is released and ending one week before school resumes.
There are other changes not discussed in this article. A parent may access the revised South Dakota Parenting Guidelines online.