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Van Driel v. Van Driel

South Dakota Supreme Court
525 N.W.2d 37 (1994)


James Van Driel (plaintiff) and Lori Ann Van Driel (defendant) had two children, who were ages eight and five when the couple divorced in January 1991 after 10 years of marriage. The couple entered into a custody settlement agreement, sharing joint legal custody and having an alternating-week schedule for physical custody. Shortly after the divorce was final, Lori exchanged permanent vows with her lesbian partner. In August 1991, James petitioned for full custody, alleging that Lori’s lesbian relationship was immoral and that the children would be ridiculed by their peers and would react negatively to Lori’s sexual orientation as they matured. The trial court found both James and Lori to be suitable parents. A clinical psychologist retained by both parties, however, conducted a thorough custody evaluation and recommended that the court award physical custody of both children to Lori. The record indicated that Lori and her partner were good parents who were discreet about the sexual portion of their relationship. There was no evidence that the children were ridiculed by classmates or reacted negatively to Lori’s sexual orientation. The children stated a preference to live with Lori. The trial court awarded primary physical custody of both children to Lori, with visitation rights to James, and James appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Miller, C.J.)

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