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Proposed South Dakota Shared Parenting Guidelines

The South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting March 5, 2003


A powerful cause of stress, suffering, and maladjustment in children of divorce is not simply divorce itself, but continuing conflict between parents, before, during, and after divorce. Similar conflicts can occur between parents who were never married. To minimize harm to their children, parents should agree on a parenting arrangement (See Appendix A and B), within 30 days following separation, that is most conducive to frequent, meaningful and maximized contact for the children with both parents, with as little conflict as possible. The best arrangement is a detailed parenting agreement made by the parents to fit their particular needs, is practical and, more importantly, meets the needs of the children. If the parents are unable to agree, however, the following guidelines will be used, unless a different schedule is court ordered. A shared parenting arrangement will not be denied solely for the reason that one parent opposes such arrangement.  For most parents, these guidelines should be considered as only a minimum direction for interaction with the children.  If the parents are unable to agree, they are encouraged to seek additional assistance through knowledgeable family counselors, psychologists, mediators or other sources of assistance to develop a parenting plan for their children and to address cooperation for the best interest of the children.



Parents should always avoid speaking negatively about one another and should firmly discourage such conduct by relatives or friends. In fact, the parents should speak in positive terms about the other parent in the presence of the children.  Each parent should encourage the children to respect the other parent. Children should never be used by one parent to spy or report on the other. Rules of conduct and discipline should be consistently enforced by all, so that the children do not receive mixed messages about appropriate behavior.


Children will benefit from continued contact with all relatives and family friends on both sides of the family for whom they feel affection. Such relationships should be protected and encouraged.  Relatives, like parents, need to avoid being critical of either parent in front of the children. Parents should have their children maintain ties with both the maternal and paternal relatives. In South Dakota, grandparents have a legal right to reasonable time with their grandchildren, if it is in the best interests of the grandchildren.  Usually the children will visit with the paternal relatives during times the children are with their father and with the maternal relatives during times they are with their mother.  It is recommended that the parents prepare an annual calendar of agreed dates so that both the parents and the children know where the children will be during the coming year.


In cases where both parents reside in the same community at the time of separation, and then one parent leaves the area, thus changing the parenting time pattern, the court will consider apportioning between the parents the children's travel costs necessary to facilitate parenting time with the other parent. In apportioning these costs, the court will consider such factors as the economic circumstances of the parents and the reasons prompting the move.


1.1 Parental communication. Parents should always keep each other

advised of their home and work addresses and telephone numbers. Whenever feasible, all communication concerning the children shall be conducted between the parents themselves in person, or by telephone, at their residences, and not at their places of employment.


1.2 Grade Reports and Medical Information.  Both parents shall receive grade reports and notices from school as they are received and are equally authorized to communicate concerning the child directly with the daycare, the school, and the children's doctors and other professionals outside the presence of the other parent. Unless there are abuse, neglect, criminal, or protection orders to the contrary, both parents shall also be listed as the children's parent and as an emergency contact with the daycare, the school, and all health professionals. Each parent shall immediately notify the other of any medical emergencies or serious illnesses of the children.  Both parents shall, as soon as reasonably possible, keep each other informed of all school or other events (for example, church or sports) involving parental participation.  If the child is taking medications, either parent will provide a sufficient amount and appropriate instructions will be conveyed to either parent.


1.3 Parenting Time Clothing.  Both parents shall assure that the children have an appropriate supply of children's clothing with them when at either parents and clothing shall be returned clean (when reasonably possible), when the children return to the other parent.  Both parents shall keep the other parent informed as far in advance as possible, of any special activities so that the appropriate clothing belonging to the children may be sent.


1.4 Withholding Support or Parenting Time. Neither parenting time nor child support is to be withheld because of either parent's failure to comply with a court order. Only the court may enter sanctions for non-compliance.  Children have a right both to support and to parenting time, neither of which is dependent upon the other. In other words, no support does not mean no parenting time, and no parenting time does not mean no support.  If there is a violation of either a parenting time or a support order, the exclusive remedy is to apply to the court for appropriate sanctions.


1.5 Adjustments in this Parenting Time Schedule. This schedule is to be understood as imposing specific requirements and responsibilities; however, when family necessities, illnesses, or commitments reasonably so require, the parents are expected to modify this schedule fairly. The parent requesting modification shall act in good faith and give as much notice as circumstances permit.


1.6 Parent's Vacation. Unless otherwise specified in a court order or agreed by the parents, both parents are entitled to a vacation with the children for a reasonable period of time, usually equal to the vacation time the other parent takes with the children. Both parents should plan a vacation during the time when the other parent is not scheduled to spend time with the children.


1.7 Insurance Forms. The parent who has medical insurance coverage on the children shall supply to the other parent an insurance card and, as applicable, insurance forms and a list of insurer-approved or HMO-qualified health care providers in the area where the other parent is residing.  A parent who, except in an emergency, takes the children to a doctor, dentist, or other provider not so approved or qualified should pay the additional cost thus incurred.  When there is a contemplated change in insurance which requires a change in medical care providers and a child has a chronic illness, thoughtful consideration should be given by the parents to what is more important, i.e., allowing the child to remain with the original provider or taking advantage of economic or medical benefits offered by the new carrier. When there is an obligation to pay medical expenses, the parent responsible therefore shall be promptly furnished with the bill by the other parent. The parents shall cooperate in submitting bills to the appropriate insurance carrier.  Thereafter, the parent responsible for paying the balance of the bill shall make arrangements directly with the health care provider and shall inform the other parent of such arrangements.  Insurance refunds should be promptly turned over to the parent who paid the bill for which the refund was received.


1.8 Child support abatement or Shared responsibility cross credit. Unless a court order otherwise provides, support shall not abate or be cross credited during any period when the children are with either parent.(South Dakota law allows for support abatement or a Shared responsibility cross credit.  See SDCL 25-7-6.14 and 25-7-6.14, respectively. However, no abatement or cross credit may be taken unless there is a court order authorizing it.)


1.9 Missed Parenting Time. When events beyond either parent's control, such as illness, prevent a scheduled parenting time, a mutually agreeable substituted date shall be arranged, as quickly as feasible. Each parent shall timely advise the other when a particular parenting time cannot be exercised. Missed parenting time should not be unreasonably accumulated.


1.10 Parenting Time - A Shared Experience. It usually makes sense for all the children to share the same schedule. Having brothers and sisters along may provide an important support for children.  Infants have special needs that may well prevent a parent from being with both infants and older children at the same time. Adolescents have special needs for peer involvement and for some control in their own lives that may place them on different schedules from their younger brothers and sisters. Because it is intended that parenting time be a shared experience between siblings and, unless these guidelines, a court order, or circumstances, such as age, illness, or a particular event suggest otherwise, all the children should spend time together with both parents.


1.11 Telephone Communication. Telephone calls between parent and child shall be liberally permitted at reasonable hours and at the expense of the calling parent. Each parent may call the children at reasonable hours when the children are with the other parent. The children may, of course, call either parent, though at reasonable hours and frequencies, and at the cost of the parent calling if it is a long distance call.  During long vacations the parent with whom the child is on vacation should make the child available for telephone calls every three days.  At all other times, the parent with whom the child is staying shall not refuse to answer the phone or turn off the phone in order to deny the other parent telephone contact. If a parent uses an answering machine, messages left on the machine for the child should be returned.  Parents should agree on a specified time for calls to the children so that the children will be made available. A parent may wish to provide a child with a telephone calling card to facilitate communication with that parent.


1.12 Mail and E-mail Contact. Parents have an unrestricted right to send cards, letters, packages, audio and videocassettes or CDs to their children. Children also have the same right to send items to their parents.  Neither parent should interfere with this right. A parent may wish to provide a child with self-addressed, stamped envelopes for the child's use in corresponding with that parent.  If the child and the parent have Internet capability, communication through e-mail should be fostered and encouraged.


1.13 Privacy of Residence. A parent may not enter the residence of the other except by express invitation of the resident parent, regardless of whether a parent retains a property interest in the residence of the other parent.  Accordingly, the children shall be picked up and returned to the front entrance of the appropriate residence. The parent dropping off the children should not leave the premises until the children are safely inside.  Parents should refrain from surprise visits to the other parent's home. A parent's time with the children is his or her own, and the children's time with that parent is equally private.


1.14 Special Considerations for Adolescents. Generally, these guidelines apply to adolescents as well as younger children. Nonetheless, within reason, the parents should honestly and fairly consider the wishes of their teenagers.  Neither parent should attempt to pressure their teenager to make a parenting time decision adverse to the other parent. Teenagers should explain the reasons for their wishes directly to the affected parent, without intervention by the other parent.


1.15 Day Care Providers. When parents reside in the same community, they should use the same day care provider. To the extent feasible, the parents should rely on each other to care for the children when the other parent is unavailable.


1.16 Special circumstances.


A.  Child Abuse. When child abuse has been established against either parent and a continuing danger is shown to exist, all parenting time for that parent should cease or be allowed only under supervision, depending on the circumstances.  Court intervention is usually required in child abuse cases, if either parent abuses a child.


B. Spouse Abuse. Witnessing spouse abuse has long-term, emotionally detrimental effects on children. Furthermore, a person who loses control and acts impulsively with a spouse may be capable of doing so with children.  Depending the nature of the spouse abuse and the time and circumstances of its occurrence, the court may require that an abusive spouse successfully complete appropriate counseling before being permitted unsupervised time with the children.


C. Substance Abuse. The children should not be with a parent who is abusing substances.


D. Long Interruption of Contact.  In those situations where either parent has not had a continuing relationship the child for an extended period, parenting time should begin with brief periods and a very gradual transition to the parenting schedule in these guidelines.


E.  Kidnapping Threats.  Parents who have threatened to kidnap or hide the children should have no parenting time or only supervised parenting time.


F. Breast-Feeding Child.  Forcibly weaning a child, whether breast-feeding or bottle feeding, during the upheaval of parental separation is not appropriate for the physical health or emotional well-being of the child.  


G. A Parent's New Relationship.  Parents should be sensitive to the danger of exposing the children too quickly to new relationships while they are still adjusting to the trauma of their parents' separation and divorce.


H. Religious Holidays and Native American Ceremonies. Parents should respect their children's needs to be raised in their faith and in keeping with their cultural heritage and should cooperate with each other to achieve these goals. These goals should not be used to deprive either parent of parenting time.


I. Other.  The court will consider limiting or denying parenting or changing custody of parents who show neglectful, impulsive, immoral, criminal, assaultive, or risk-taking behavior with or in the presence of the children.




2.1 Children Under Age Five Generally. Infants (children under eighteen months of age), toddlers (eighteen months to three years) and older preschool age children (three to five) have a great need for continuous and frequent contact with both parents who provide a sense of security, nurturing, and predictability.  Generally, overnight parenting time for infants and toddlers is not recommended unless each parent is bonded to the child, has the appropriate home environment, lives in the same community and is personally able to provide adequate physical care.   The following guidelines for children under age five are designed to take into account children's developmental milestones and to maximize the amount of time of the child with both their parents. Since children mature at different rates, these may need to be adjusted to fit the child's individual circumstances.


2.2 Infants - Birth to Eighteen Months. Three, four-hour periods per week, which includes two - three overnights per week.


2.3 Toddlers - Eighteen to Thirty-six Months. Child spends maximized time, as much as practical in alternate homes, with three or four overnights spaced regularly throughout the week.  This arrangement requires an adaptable child and reasonably cooperative parents. It also requires consistency and stability in each home.


2.4 Children in Day Care. In families where a child has been in day care before the parental separation, the child may be able to tolerate flexible parenting times earlier because the child is more accustomed to separations from both parents.  Either parent of a child under age five should not place the child with a baby-sitter or day care provider without providing the opportunity to parent the child to the other parent.


2.5 Holidays. For toddlers and preschool age children, when the parents live in the same or nearby communities, the parents should alternate each year Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve/Day, so that the children spend equal time with each parent during this holiday period. Other major and minor holidays and `No School; should also be divided between the parents as practical.  




3.1 Weekends. Alternate weekends from Friday after school. To Monday morning.  The starting and ending times may change to fit the parent's and child's schedule.  Or an equivalent period of time if either parent is not available on weekends and the child does not miss school. If Friday is a school holiday, the period begins when school is out on Thursday; if Monday is a school holiday, the period ends when school begins on Tuesday. In addition, if time and distance allow, one or two overnights per week.  All transportation for the midweek parenting time is a shared responsibility of both parents.


3.2 Mother's Day - Father's Day. The alternate weekends will be shifted, exchanged, or arranged, so that the children are with their mother each Mother's Day weekend and with their father each Father's Day weekend.  Conflicts between these special weekends and regular parenting time shall be resolved under Paragraph 1.9.


3.3 Summer. One-half of the school summer vacation. The time may be consecutive or it may be split into two blocks of time. If a child goes to summer school and it is impossible for either parent to schedule this parenting time other than during summer school, that parent may elect to take the time when the child is in summer school and transport the child to the summer school session at the child's school or an equivalent summer school session in either parent's community.


3.4 Winter (Christmas) Vacation. One-half the school winter vacation, a period that begins the evening the child is released from school and continues to the evening of the day before the child will return to school.  If the parents cannot agree on the division of this period, one parent shall have the first half in even-number years. Holidays, such as Christmas, are extremely important as times of shared enjoyment, family tradition, and meaning.  Families should work out ways for the children to spend part of each important holiday at both homes. Parents will alternate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Christmas Eve shall begin at Noon and end Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m.  Christmas Day shall begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at Noon, December 26.  Parents will alternate New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on a similar time schedule.


Holidays.  Parents shall alternate the following holiday weekends: Easter, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving will begin on Wednesday evening and end on Monday morning; Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends will begin on Friday and end on Tuesday morning; Easter weekend will begin on Thursday evening and end on Tuesday morning; the 4th of July, when it does not fall on a weekend, shall include the weekend closest to the 4th.


3.6. Children's Birthdays. Like holidays, a child's birthday shall be alternated annually between the parents. If the birthday falls on a weekend, it shall extend to the full weekend, and any resulting conflict with regular parenting time shall be resolved under Paragraph 1.9.  If the birthday falls on a weekday, it shall be celebrated during the day and the child shall spend an overnight with the parent.

3.7. Parents' Birthdays. The children should spend the day (including overnight) with the parent who is celebrating his or her birthday, unless it interferes with either parent's scheduled time during a holiday or vacation.


3.8. Conflicts between Regular and Holiday Weekends. When there is a conflict between a holiday weekend and the regular weekend parenting time, the holiday takes precedence.  Thus, if either parent misses a regular weekend because it is the other parent's holiday, the regular alternating parenting schedule will resume following the holiday. The parents are to make up missed weekends resulting from holiday conflicts.


3.9. Notice of Canceled Parenting Time. Whenever possible, either parent shall give a minimum of three-days notice of intent not to exercise all or part of the scheduled parenting time.  When such notice is not feasible, the maximum notice permitted by the circumstances, and the reason therefore, shall be provided to the other parent.  If one parent cancels or modifies the other parent's time with a child because the child has a scheduling conflict, that parent should be given the opportunity to take the child to the scheduled event or appointment.


3.10. Pick Up and Return of Children. When the parents live in the same community, the responsibility of picking up and returning the children should be shared.  Usually one parent will pick up and the other parent will return the children to that parent's residence. The person picking up or returning the children during parenting times has an obligation to be punctual, arriving at the agreed time, not substantially earlier or later. Repeated, unjustified violations of this provision may subject the offender to court sanctions.


3.11. Additional Parenting Time. The children's time with both parents should be liberal and flexible.  For most parents, these guidelines should be considered as only the minimum and are not meant to foreclose the parents from agreeing to such time-sharing with the children as the parents find reasonable and in the best interests of their children at any given time.




4.1 Extended Parenting Time. All but two weeks of the school summer vacation period and, on an alternating basis, the school winter (Christmas) vacation and spring break.

4.2 Priority of Summer Parenting Time. Summer parenting time with either parent takes precedence over summer activities (such as sports), when the parenting time cannot be reasonably scheduled around such events.  Even so, the conscientious parent will often be able to enroll the child in the same or similar activity in the parent's community.


4.3 Notice. At least 60 days advance written notice should be given of the date for commencing extended summer parenting time, so that the most efficient means of transportation may be obtained and the parents and the children may arrange their schedules.  Failure to give the precise number of days notice does not give the either parent the right to deny parenting time.


4.4 Additional Parenting Time. Where distance and finances permit, additional parenting time, in order to maximize the time between both parents should be provided, as practical and liberal parenting time shall be accommodated.  This may include more frequent parenting time weekends during the school year. .  If necessary, children can miss some school to spend time with either parent, so long as it does not substantially impair the children's scholastic progress.





The following areas may be considered when developing a parenting plan that best meets the needs of the children.


The wishes of the child's parents as to parenting time and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;

The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences

The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;

The child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community;

The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child;

The demands of parental employment;

The past parenting history of the intact family;

The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;

The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other party;

Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;

The capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care and other material needs.

The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.

Conviction of domestic violence, child abuse, drug related offences, etc.




An adequate parenting plan should address the following areas:


Medical, dental, vision care, psychiatric, other mental health care


Changing of surname

Religious training


Decision making responsibility

Resolving disputes

Exchanging information

Residential arrangement

Parenting time arrangement

Maintaining Contact when the children are with the other parent

Child care


Holidays and vacations

Special occasions and family events

Outside activities, Grandparents, relatives and important friends

Transporting the children

Improving transition times

Treating each child as an individual

Parenting Styles and Values, Consistency in Raising children

Undermining the parent/child relationship

Denying Access to the Child

When a parent needs to develop parenting skills

When nonrelatives live in the home

When parents have new partners

Labeling the Residential Arrangement

Separating Adult relationship issues from parenting issues

Making Changes to the Parenting Plan

Explaining the agreement to the children

Death of a parent