To get married in South Dakota, you must first procure a marriage license from any county Register of Deeds office. The licensing official responsible for issuing marriage licenses is, appropriately titled, the Register of Deeds.
You must apply in person; no proxies or powers of attorney allowed.
Marriage is a contract
Marriage is a civil contract that you must enter into willingly, devoid of coercion or fraud. Your consent beforehand is essential, as is the solemnization of your marriage to achieve the legal status of "married."
South Dakota doesn't impose any goofy residency requirements the way two of our neighbors—ahem, Montana, North Dakota—enjoy burdening their applicants. Residents and nonresidents alike may apply in any county and marry in any county.
The cost of a South Dakota marriage license is $40. It's the same no matter which county register of deeds you go to. Since state law sets a standardized price, this helps to create a non-competitive environment amongst offices.
Where the money goes
Unlike most other states, no part of the license fee goes to the state treasurer; the county retains the entire amount, $10 of which is deposited into the county general fund and $30 deposited into the county domestic abuse program.
|25%||$10||County general fund|
|75%||$30||Funds county domestic abuse program|
The state Department of Health designs and distributes gender-neutral marriage license application forms to all register of deeds.
When filling out your application, be prepared to share the following information about yourself:
- Full legal name, including suffix
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Is your address within city limits
- Phone number
Race and ethnicity
Specify your race; up to six can be specified, including:
- Alaska Native
- American Indian
- Asian Indian
- Native Hawaiian
- Other Asian
- Other Pacific Islander
If you're Hispanic, choose an origin:
- Central American
- South American
- Puerto Rican
- Other, then specify
Social security number
If you've been married before, specify the total number of times and detail how the last one ended (e.g., divorce, annulment, death).
If you know the location, including city and county, where your marriage ceremony will take place, specify it. Otherwise, leave it blank.
Freedom from abuse
Your application will contain the following statement which you will be required to read and acknowledge by affixing your signature.
The laws of this state affirm your right to enter into this marriage and at the same time to live within the marriage free from violence and abuse. Neither of you is the property of the other. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, battery, and assault of a spouse or other family member, as well as other provisions of the criminal laws of this state, are applicable to spouses and other family members and violations thereof are punishable by law.
Simple question: are you an adult or a minor?
Ages 18 and above
If you're an adult, meaning you at or above the age of 18, then you don't need your mom, dad, or guardian to give the go ahead for you to get married. You're old enough to make that decision for yourself.
Ages 16 and 17
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you're old enough to get married, but not quite old enough to get a license without the written consent of your parent or legal guardian.
Ages 15 and below
If you're below the age of 16, then it doesn't matter what you want or who's willing to agree. You're at the age where marriage simply is a legal impossibility and no register of deeds dare issue you a license. You'll have to wait until you're at least 16 years old.
Parent or guardian consent
The following parental consent guidelines only apply to 16 and 17 year olds.
If you're parent or guardian has agreed to grant consent for you to marry, typically they'll come with you to the making of the application, fill out a readymade consent form, show their ID, and confirm to the register of deeds that the consent is real.
Expressing consent in person will get the job done. If you need consent, seriously, just do it this way and make it easy on yourself and on the register of deeds.
In writing, but absent
Now, there's nothing in the law that says your parent or guardian must be with you when you apply. Maybe they're bedridden, out of the state, or just too embarrassed to accompany you.
The law simply stipulates that written consent must be acknowledged, usually by your parent/guardian being there with you, or somehow proven to be genuine.
So, how does a register of deeds confirm consent from your parent or guardian is authentic if your parent or guardian isn't there with you? How do you prove you're telling the truth?
It's ultimately up to the register of deeds to decide if the evidence you've provided is satisfactory. A notarized statement of consent is the bare minimum that should be provided.
You'll need to provide identification to prove your age, such as a certified copy of your birth certificate. If you can't provide your birth certificate, then provide any other form of photo identification that displays your name and date of birth, such as a driver's license, state-issued ID, military ID, or passport.
If you're either 16 or 17 years old, you must bring a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Once your application is submitted and approved, the register of deeds will issue you a marriage license and certificate of marriage form. Both documents, which are designed by the Department of Health, will appear on the same piece of paper.
The certificate of marriage is to be filled out by whoever solemnizes your marriage and later returned to the issuing office for recording.
If you're eligible to get married, the register of deeds will issue you your marriage license moments after you submit your application.
As soon as your license is in hand, you can get married immediately. Now, keep in mind that you'll have a very short window of opportunity to get married afterward.
Once you've been issued a marriage license, you've got 20 days to get married before it expires. An expired license is useless. You can't renew it and you can't extend it. Throw it in the trash, recycle it, burn it, or use it as birdcage lining.
If you wait too long and still intend to marry, you'll have to submit a new application and repay the fee. You won't be given a refund, whole or partial, even if you can prove hardship or extenuating circumstances.
By the time you show up to apply for license #2, the money you donated for license #1 should have already made it to the county treasurer and put to use. Your money's gone.
You're not required to get a blood test prior to applying for a marriage license.
Before your license is issued, the register of deeds is required to provide you information, furnished by the Department of Health, which discusses HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and prenatal care. A list of counseling and testing sites will also be provided.
South Dakota's prohibition against incestuous marriages is wide ranging and absolute. If any marriage that's considered incestuous is established in this state, it would be void from the beginning.
Ascendants and descendants
You cannot marry an ascendant or descendant, regardless of how many degrees of separation exist. This means a parent cannot marry their child, nor can a grandparent marry their grandchild or great-grandchild.
Brothers and sisters
Siblings are prohibited from marrying one another, whether their related by the whole blood or half blood.
Aunts and uncles
Aunts and uncles are prohibited from marrying their niece or nephew, whether related by whole or half blood.
Marriage between first cousins is prohibited, whether by half or whole blood, including double-first cousins. Marriage between second cousins and beyond is allowed.
Adoptive relationships are treated the same as blood relations. This prevents a stepparent from marrying a stepchild.
If you're married now, then you obviously can't marry again until your prior marriage has been annulled or dissolved by divorce. Doing otherwise would be a clear act of bigamy, and such a marriage would be null and void from inception, barring extreme exceptions to the rule.
Absent spouse exception
If your husband or wife has abandoned you, disappeared, is not known to be alive or dead, or has been presumed dead for five consecutive years immediately preceding your subsequent marriage, then your latter marriage would not be considered bigamous on its face.
However, the legitimately of your follow-up marriage can later be challenged in a tribunal of valid jurisdiction, making such a marriage eternally voidable and legally rickety. Proceed with caution.
Although this may seem like a hideous loophole that an unscrupulous individual may exploit to circumvent anti-bigamy statutes, it's actually explicitly permitted in state law.
Anyone who participates in a ceremony without a license is guilty of a "class 1" misdemeanor.
Who may solemnize
Your marriage can be solemnized by a circuit court judge, magistrate, Supreme Court justice, mayor, or any person authorized by a church or religious organization.
You could also solemnize the ceremony yourself, in accordance with your religion's procedures, but you'll be responsible for handling the return of the license and record.
Two witnesses must be present during your ceremony. Their names must be recorded on your certificate of marriage.
Identity and age verification
You might think it's solely the job of the register of deeds to verify your age and identity when it comes to all things marriage license, but state law mandates the solemnizing official also serve as a redundant layer by verifying your name and residence.
If the person who solemnizes knows you personally, that's sufficient confirmation. Otherwise, be prepared to show photo identification that matches the name reflected on your marriage license.
This verification also applies to your two witnesses, so make sure they bring their ID too.
Completing the license
Once the ceremony is over, the solemnizing official must complete the certificate of marriage portion of the license by documenting his or her name and title, when and where the ceremony was performed, you and your spouse's names and residences, and direct the witnesses to sign.
Returning the license
Whoever solemnizes your marriage must return the completed license and certificate to the issuing register of deeds office no later than 10 days after the ceremony.
If your documents aren't returned for recording, there won't be any official record or proof that your marriage actually took place.
If you're having a religious marriage ceremony that doesn't customarily make use of a minister, clerk, or designated solemnizing official—in essence, a self-solemnized ceremony—then you and your spouse will be responsible for completing and returning the license and certificate to the issuing office within 30 days after the ceremony.
Failure to return
If your license and record aren't returned for recording, there won't be any official evidence that your marriage actually took place.
Beyond your marriage's existence being held in limbo, failure to return by a solemnizing official is a Class 1 misdemeanor and a petty offense if you're opting to self-solemnize.
Once your license and certificate has been returned to the register of deeds that issued them, it will be recorded in office and a copy forwarded to the state Department of Health. At this point, your marriage is now officially recognized by the state as legitimate and existent.
After your marriage license and record have been recorded, you can order certified copies of your marriage record/certificate from the register of deeds or the Department of Health.
You'll need to acquire a certified copy of your marriage record if you plan to change your name after marriage.
South Dakota will only recognize common-law marriages that took place before July 1, 1959, regardless of where—in this state, another state, or territory—it was established.
A marriage that takes place outside of South Dakota is considered valid in this state as long as it was legally established in whichever state, territory, jurisdiction, or country the marriage was celebrated.