Hanhart v. Hanhart

501 N.W.2d 776 (1993)

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Hanhart v. Hanhart

South Dakota Supreme Court
501 N.W.2d 776 (1993)

  • Written by Haley Gintis, JD


In 1990, Karel Anthony Hanhart (plaintiff) filed for divorce against Donna Rochelle Hanhart (defendant). Karel alleged that Donna’s extreme mental cruelty and her extramarital affair with their neighbor constituted grounds for the divorce. The court awarded Karel with temporary custody of the Hanharts’ 10-year-old, eight-year-old, and seven-year-old. The court awarded Donna temporary custody of the youngest child, who was less than two-months old and was still breastfeeding. In response to Karel’s divorce action, Donna denied the allegations and petitioned for custody of the children. A trial was held on the matter. Donna testified that she did not have an extramarital affair with the neighbor and that her sexual relationship with the neighbor began after the Hanharts had separated. The trial court concluded that it was in the best interests of the children for Donna to receive custody. Karel appealed. While the appeal was pending, Donna informed Karel that she had lied about not having an extramarital affair. Donna also informed Karel that the youngest child was not Karel’s biological child, which was later confirmed through a paternity test. Karel then requested that the case be remanded back to the trial court for a second trial because of the new information that came to light. The request was granted. In preparation for the second trial, the judge interviewed the children. The judge found that the children were much better adjusted living with Donna than they had been while living with Karel and that two of the children expressed a preference to live with Donna. The judge also found that other than the oldest child seeing Donna kiss the neighbor on one occasion, the affair had not impacted the children. Additionally, the judge found that Karel’s job was very time-demanding and required him to move on a frequent basis. The trial court awarded Donna custody again on the grounds that the extramarital affair had not impacted the children; that Karel’s job would result in him having to hire childcare providers if awarded custody, which would pose financial burdens; and that awarding Donna custody of all the children would allow the siblings to stay together. The trial court awarded Karel visitation rights. Karel appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wuest, J.)

Dissent (Henderson, J.)

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