If you seek to save thousands on getting divorced in South Dakota, go for an uncontested divorce. If your ambition is to cut down the cost of divorce to a bare minimum, opt for a Do-It-Yourself divorce where completing the paperwork and filing for divorce happens without an attorney. Let’s see what makes divorces more complicated and hence more expensive and how to keep your divorce costs down in South Dakota.
What Affects the Cost of Divorce in South Dakota?
Many factors can blow your divorce budget. Financial experts suggest divorcing spouses decrease their overall spending pre-divorce and post-divorce to adjust to new separate lifestyles. We, however, believe a more strategic approach should be your priority at this time of life. Save where you can without compromising the lifestyle of your family. Consider this list of factors – from the most pricy to the most affordable – and adjust your choices accordingly.
Nature of divorce
The major difference between low-cost and expensive divorces is whether they are contested or not. An uncontested divorce can be both cheap and fast. A contested dissolution of marriage is neither.
When relying on the court system to help decide disputes, litigants in a contested divorce must prove their spouses’ fault in marriage (if they opt for a fault-based divorce) and litigate child custody, financial arrangements, spousal support, and property division. Thus, court costs and attorneys’ fees reach at least $10,000-$15,000 for a contested divorce in South Dakota.
By selecting ‘irreconcilable differences’ as their grounds for divorce instead of passing blame, the divorce process is streamlined and becomes much more affordable.
If any issues are being contested in the divorce, the couple must hire at least two attorneys and pay hourly fees. For no-fault cases, though, law firms offer flat-fee divorce packages. Paying $1,500 to $3,000 to file divorce papers and other legal formalities is definitely cheaper than tens of thousands of dollars for litigation at trial. However, many couples prefer to keep legal costs down even more by doing all the paperwork without a lawyer.
Mediation is always less expensive than litigation. First, mediators charge less for their services. Second, one mediator works with both spouses together as a neutral party and helps them achieve mutually beneficial compromises. In many cases, 2 to 4 hours are enough (one mediation session) for a mediator to help the parties decide on custody, alimony, and distribution of assets. Depending on the complexity of issues, mediation in South Dakota will cost around $300.00 to $1,000.00, which the parties split and pay equally.
Having a DIY divorce means that spouses handle the paperwork without the assistance of an attorney. South Dakota supports self-represented litigants and maintains self-help centers and a website where all necessary information is available. To file for divorce on your own, you must do the following:
- Meet the residency requirements. In South Dakota, it is easy: either spouse must have lived in the state for at least one day.
- Choose the proper court. Petitioners apply for divorce in one of the 17 circuit courts that oversee divorce proceedings. Choose a county circuit court where either you or your spouse currently live.
- Decide who completes the paperwork. Filing for divorce together is not possible in South Dakota. It means that both spouses cannot file a joint petition for divorce and thus save on time and effort. In South Dakota, the petitioner (referred to as the plaintiff) does all the paperwork, but if the spouses agree to divorce, the respondent won’t file the Answer form.
- Fill out the court forms. South Dakota requires petitioners to prepare different packages of forms depending on whether they have minor children and whether they agree on the terms of their divorce. Use a checklist to ensure all the forms are included.
- Notarize the forms. After the forms are filled out, both spouses must sign them in the presence of a notary and make two copies of each form.
- File the forms with the court’s clerk. Having prepared and notarized the forms, the petitioner files the paperwork at the local courthouse and pays the filing fees. South Dakota courts charge $95 for filing for divorce. Families of indigenous origin or low-income backgrounds can request a fee waiver.
- Serve the spouse. If the spouses are on good terms, no formal serving is required. The respondent can get the divorce papers and return a Notice and Admission of Service of Summons and Complaint. The respondent has 20 days for that; otherwise, a default divorce can be granted. In all other cases, the petitioner hires a third party to serve the papers on the respondent.
- Have a 60-day waiting period. After the respondent receives the divorce documents, the court waits for two months and then finalizes the divorce.
Divorce over the Internet
A DIY divorce can be assisted by web divorce companies that help the petitioner prepare an application for divorce online. Even though South Dakota sets up self-help centers in each county, many couples either feel insecure in their form-preparing skills or simply don’t have time to learn the intricacies of a South Dakota divorce. Internet divorce services have couples provide information about their marriage and divorce in an online questionnaire and automatically complete court forms for them. After paying a small fee, couples receive error-free divorce forms ready to be filed with the court.
The Bottom Line
Each individual chooses a variant that balances their financial capabilities and allows them to work around their time constraints. Using the services of an online divorce company is a solid compromise between self-representation and mediation. It is the most inexpensive option that saves time and money.