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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Bill Proposes Examination Of Divorce Assets

Representative Mike Stevens is a Yankton attorney. He says there were almost 2,800 divorces in South Dakota in 2010, and as a part of those divorce decrees, the court divided up the couple’s assets.

Sometimes both parties aren’t aware of all the assets, either because one party hid assets, or because the couple forgot about them.

Stevens says do-it-yourself divorces are prone to errors.

“A few years ago the state bar provided forms where you start seeing a lot more people filling in the forms and doing their own divorces without an attorney,” Stevens says. “And quite frankly I’ve seen in my own practice, because I do a lot of family law, where you’re starting to see because of economic reasons, one party will get an attorney and the other party won’t get an attorney.”

Stevens says under current law, a court can reopen a divorce case only for a year after the decree is entered. House Bill 1226 allows more time—two years if the assets were unintentionally omitted, and more time if assets were concealed.

If one party intentionally hid assets, the judge can divide the assets in favor of the wronged spouse and assign punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and other costs to the offending party.

The Senate Judiciary committee passed the bill unanimously. It now heads to the full Senate.