Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s issuance of protection orders in favor of Abigail Parker against both her husband Jordan Parker and Jordan’s sister, Jasmyn Bauer. The court (1) the court did not err in granting a protection order against Jordan on the grounds of domestic abuse because the court’s findings supported that Jordan knowingly and willfully engaged in a series of acts that repeatedly harassed Abigail; (2) the court’s findings supported the issuance of a protection order entered against Jasmyn; and (3) none of the parties was entitled to attorneys’ fees pursuant to S.D. Codified Laws 26A-87.3. View "Parker v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s termination of her parental rights to Child. Specifically, the court held (1) the circuit court’s interpretation of S.D. Codified Laws 16-22-6 did not result in the court relying on improper evidence, and the court did not err when it took judicial notice of two previous abuse and neglect files and Mother’s previous criminal files; and (2) the circuit court did not clearly err in determining that Mother could only remain sober in an institution such as the South Dakota State Women’s Prison and did not err in determining that termination of parental rights was the lease restrictive alternative. View "In re A.K.A.-C." on Justia Law

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After discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the home of Mother, Mother’s three children were removed from the home. The State initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Tribe). More than one year later, the Tribe and Mother submitted motions to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motions. Following a final dispositional hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motions to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribe, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the motions. View "In re Interest of A.O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s imposition of a three-year protection order barring Gregory Begnaud from all contact with his two minor children, concluding that the order was not statutorily authorized because (1) the petition filed by the children’s mother failed to meet the requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 25-10-3; and (2) the circuit court failed to find that the children were victims of domestic abuse as required under S.D. Codified Laws 25-10-5, and even if the court had made such a finding, it would have been unsupported by the record. Further, the Court held that the order was overbroad and an abuse of discretion. View "Purcell v. Begnaud" on Justia Law

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Prior to their marriage in 1993, Wife and Husband entered into a pre-marriage agreement (PMA) listing their assets and liabilities. In 2012, Husband sued Wife for divorce in Minnesota. The Minnesota court determined that Butte County, South Dakota, was the proper venue to determine the issues regarding the validity and enforceability of the parties’ PMA. Wife filed a declaratory judgment action against Donald in Butte County requesting a judgment declaring the PMA valid and enforceable and asking the court to construe the rights and interests of the parties under the PMA. The circuit court declared the PMA valid and enforceable and interpreted the PMA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it interpreted the PMA to permit tracing of earnings or property through the joint marital account and applied the marital loan concept; (2) the circuit court did not err when it adopted Wife’s expert’s report; and (3) Wife was not entitled to appellate attorney’s fees. View "Charlson v. Charlson" on Justia Law

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After Wife sought a divorce from Husband, the parties entered into a stipulation and agreement to divide their property and debt. The agreement awarded the martial home to Husband, divided responsibility for the two mortgages on the home, and declared that the home be sold, with the proceeds from the sale to pay off any sum remaining on the mortgages. Husband later sold the home and used the sale proceeds to pay off both mortgages. Husband requested reimbursement from Wife for the mortgage debt assigned to her, but Wife refused to reimburse him. Husband filed a motion for order to show cause asking the circuit court to hold Wife in contempt and enter a judgment against her for the amount he paid on her mortgage. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by finding that the agreement was unambiguous and did not err in its interpretation of the agreement; (2) the plain language of the agreement did not require Wife to reimburse Husband; and (3) the circuit court did not err in determining that Husband’s request for an order requiring repaying from Wife would result in an impermissible modification of a final property settlement. View "Coffey v. Coffey" on Justia Law

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Jieun Choi and Jason Vandyke were married for about a year and a half before divorcing on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. A stipulation and settlement agreement was incorporated into the divorce decree that provided for alimony in the form of nineteen payments of $1,500 a month to Choi. After making fourteen of the nineteen payments and upon discovering that Choi had been employed full-time by Black Hills State University, Vandyke sought termination of alimony. The trial court ordered termination of alimony, finding that the payments were excessive given Choi’s financial circumstances and ability to work. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of the law and circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating alimony. View "Vandyke v. Choi" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned the circuit court’s resolution of a protracted post-decree dispute over the division of the parties’ property, a restaurant. The court resolved the property division dispute by awarding Husband the business and converting Husband’s cash-equalization obligation in the property division to alimony to be paid to Wife. The court also found Husband in contempt and denied Wife’s request for attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in modifying the original judgment and decree by converting the property equalization payment to an alimony payment; and (2) the circuit court erred in finding Husband in contempt because the court entered no findings of fact on any elements of contempt. View "Pike v. Pike" on Justia Law

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Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights to A.B. She argued that the circuit court abused its discretion when it qualified the State’s witness as an expert under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in light of recently-adopted Bureau of Indian Affairs guidelines interpreting ICWA. She also claimed that the circuit court applied the wrong standard of proof when it terminated her parental rights, and that the State’s expert failed to specifically opine that continued custody of the child with Mother would likely cause serious emotional or physical harm to the child. Lastly, Mother claimed that the least restrictive alternative was to continue Mother’s legal relationship with the child while Father retains full legal and physical custody. From its review of the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Supreme Court found that the trial court’s failure to identify the proper standard of proof was "problematic." The trial court concluded that evidence existed beyond a reasonable doubt that “the best interest of the minor child outweighs” termination of Mother’s parental rights. But the court did not make the requisite inquiry whether the evidence existed beyond a reasonable doubt that Mother’s continued custody of A.B. would likely result in serious emotional or physical harm. The Supreme Court therefore concluded the trial court erred when it terminated Mother’s parental rights without conducting this necessary examination utilizing the proper standard of proof. The matter was remanded for the circuit court to determine-on the existing record-whether evidence existed beyond a reasonable doubt that serious emotional and/or physical damage would likely result were A.B. placed in the legal care or custody of Mother. View "Interest of A.B." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father divorced in 2014 pursuant to a divorce decree awarding joint legal custody of the parties’ children with primary physical custody to Mother. The court allowed Mother to continue to reside in Sioux Falls, where she moved during the trial, awarded Mother certain property and a cash equalization payment, and ordered Father to pay monthly alimony and $70,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s award of joint legal custody with primary physical custody to Mother; (2) reversed the circuit court’s division of the parties’ property, holding that the court erred in its recapture and division of certain gifts Father made years before the divorce trial; (3) reversed the award of alimony, holding that Mother failed to carry her burden of introducing evidence of her need for support; and (4) affirmed the award of attorney’s fees and costs. View "Kolbach v. Kolbach" on Justia Law