Common Law Marriage South Dakota: How To Have Your Union Approved

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By Divorce & Finance

Common law marriage south dakota happy coupleCommon law marriage South Dakota isn’t recognized unless you provide valid proof of your union from a different state. Common law marriage is when a couple establishes a partnership without a formal wedding ceremony or further financial expenses.

South Dakota marriage laws used to recognize common law marriage until 1959, when they abolished it. Read on to learn how to prove common law marriage in South Dakota and its potential alternatives.

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Does South Dakota Recognize Common Law Marriage?

South Dakota hasn’t recognized common law marriage since 1959. This implies that you cannot get married in South Dakota via common law unless you prove it from another state. South Dakota considers common law marriage invalid alongside other forms of marriage.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in South Dakota

In addition to common law marriage, South Dakota doesn’t recognize marriage arrangements like:

  • Domestic partnerships
  • Quasi-marital relationships
  • Cohabitation

If you got married through common law in another state before moving into South Dakota, there’s a possibility to have your marriage recognized. You’ll only need to provide the relevant proof and evidence that your common law marriage took place in the other state.

This proof could be in documents and other factors associated with your marriage under common law. If by mistake you lack any evidence to prove your marriage, the state of South Dakota will not recognize it hence categorizing you as unmarried. You’ll therefore need to seek other legal alternatives.

Therefore, the best alternative is to obtain a marriage license to help formalize your marriage. Below, we’ll discuss using a marriage license as an alternative to common law marriage in South Dakota.

– Marriage License in South Dakota

A marriage license in South Dakota serves as a legal recognition for your union. You’ll need to visit the Office of the Register of Deeds in any county within South Dakota to ask for a marriage license and have your union formalized.

At the Register of Deeds office, you’ll need to provide your driver’s license to prove your age and identity. Moreover, you’ll need to provide your social security number and pay a cash fee of $40 to obtain the license. You can also provide a certified copy of your birth certificate, a passport, or a baptismal certificate if you don’t have a driver’s license.

No blood tests are needed when requesting a marriage license in South Dakota.

Marriage Ceremony After Obtaining a Marriage License

Upon receiving the marriage license, you can immediately proceed with your marriage ceremony. In South Dakota, you can have your marriage ceremony presided over by a:

  • Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Judge of the Circuit Court
  • Magistrate judge
  • Mayor
  • A person authorized by the church.

This should happen 20 days after receiving the marriage license. You’ll also need to pay $7 to have copies of your marriage record certified by the register of deeds. The law doesn’t allow individuals below 18 to marry regarding age restriction. If either party is a minor between 16-18 years, parents or guardians must provide written consent.

The register of deeds must duly acknowledge this consent before issuing the minor with a marriage license. The law also allows residents of South Dakota to marry whomever they wish as long as they’re not in another marriage currently. It prohibits marriage between:

  • Brothers and sisters
  • Parents and children
  • Aunts and nephews
  • Uncles and nieces
  • First cousins, or
  • Stepparent and stepchild.

You’ll only receive a South Dakota marriage certificate regarding common law marriage if you validly prove that the marriage took place in a state that recognizes it.

Additional Requirements To Obtain a Marriage License

To obtain a marriage license in South Dakota, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Applicants must physically appear at the Office of Registrar of Deeds to have their signatures captured electronically and complete the necessary license application forms.
  • Each applicant will need to provide their preferred surname to the registrar of deeds after the solemnization of marriage.
  • Fill in personal information in the marriage application worksheets, including addresses, names, birth information, social security numbers, etc.
  • The marriage ceremony only takes place after the issuance of the license.
  • You need to use the marriage license within 90 days from issuance.
  • The marriage ceremony should only occur within South Dakota (the license isn’t valid in another state).
  • The marriage license is valid for use throughout the state, regardless of the county that issued it.
  • You should pay the marriage license fee in cash, not through credit cards, checks, or debit cards.

– Prenuptial Agreements During Marriage in South Dakota

Generally, South Dakota holds prenuptial agreements as valid marital agreements (the state adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act). A prenuptial agreement refers to a contract that a party enters before marriage and outlines each other’s wishes concerning property rights and interests. The agreement serves to determine property disposition in the event of death.

Such agreement also guides how the couple shall handle property if a divorce or separation happens. The only scenario in which the state may decline to uphold a premarital agreement is when it restricts someone’s right to alimony if a divorce takes place. It’s against the public policy of South Dakota for a prenuptial agreement to waive or limit a person’s right to alimony.

If couples enter into a prenuptial agreement and resolve to support each other if divorce occurs, the court remains to have the final say in establishing the agreement’s efficacy. Moreover, the court has the power to modify an agreement that it had approved initially. If you feel that your prenuptial agreement could affect your will or estate plan, it’s essential to seek guidance from a lawyer.


– What Changes Can You Make Upon Getting Married in South Dakota?

After obtaining your marriage license and getting married in South Dakota, the law allows you to make the following adjustments:

Changing your last name. It’s customary for a party to assume the other’s last name after marriage. However, there are no legal constraints for not doing that. You’re still allowed to use your formal name if you choose to. If you change your name upon marriage, ensure you notify the Social Security Administration.

Also, you’ll need to notify the division of motor vehicles to have your driver’s license updated. The same applies to notifying banks, employers, creditors, and insurance companies.

Updating life insurance policies. Under normal circumstances, you can’t share your life insurance policy with your spouse or children unless you list them as beneficiaries. Upon marriage, you’ll need to update your policy to include new members as your family composition changes with time. It would help if you, therefore, did this regularly.

If you own bank accounts, life insurance policies, bonds, or real estate jointly with someone else, you’ll need to update the information to include your spouse and children as beneficiaries. Also, you should inform your employer about your new status so that you start receiving employment benefits for married persons.

– How Does Child Custody Relate to Common Law Marriage South Dakota?

Upon the approval of your common law marriage in South Dakota, you’ll have the same child custody rights as other formal marriages during a divorce. According to child custody and support laws in South Dakota, both parents have to care for their child after divorce.

Regarding child support payments, the law requires only the non-custodial to make such payments. The South Dakota laws describe a non-custodial parent without direct care, control, or custody of the child. Although custodial parents also have a financial responsibility to the child, the law presumes that they directly spend on the child daily.

The amount of money each parent contributes to the welfare of their child after divorce depends on each party’s income and the duration spent with the child.


In this article, we’ve established that common law marriage in South Dakota isn’t recognized, and in summary, we get to know that:

  • Common law marriage south dakota is it legalSouth Dakota doesn’t recognize common law marriage within its jurisdiction unless it happened in a state that approves it.
  • The best alternative to getting married in South Dakota is obtaining a marriage license from the Office of Registrar of Deeds.
  • You must have at least 18 years to acquire a marriage license.
  • Other marriage arrangements like cohabitation agreements or domestic partnerships aren’t allowed in South Dakota.
  • You can make prenuptial agreements, change names, or update your life insurance policies upon marriage in South Dakota.

To have your marriage validated in South Dakota, both parties must visit the registrar of deeds and provide vital information like age, names, and identifying documents. Upon receiving the license, you have a maximum of 90 days to conduct a marriage ceremony in any county within the state. If you seek to obtain a marriage license today in South Dakota, ensure you carry a cash fee of $40 and visit the Office of the Registrar of Deeds in any county.

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