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Supreme Court overturns child custody ruling PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Associated Press   

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – A Plankinton farmer is not entitled to custody of his son because he failed to pay the full amount of child support he owed for several years while the boy was living with his mother, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The high court’s 3-2 ruling overturned the decision of a circuit judge who had given Michael W. Schroeder primary custody of his 5-year-old son, Thomas.

The Supreme Court majority said Circuit Judge Timothy Bjorkman erred when he found it would be in the child’s best interests to live with his father. Schroeder failed to provide for his son’s basic needs when he refused to pay the full amount of court-ordered support for more than two years, the justices said.

The two dissenting justices said they believe the circuit judge’s decision should be upheld because the decision focused on which parent was most responsible for alienating the boy from the other parent.

Schroeder and the boy’s mother, Joleen Pietrzak, already had broken up after a brief relationship when the child was born in 2001, according to court records. The two fought for several years over custody, visitation and child support payments.

Pietrzak was awarded custody of the child, and Schroeder initially was ordered to pay child support of $150 a month until a permanent determination was made. He was eventually ordered to pay $363 a month in child support, but he continued to pay only $150, according to court records.

The Supreme Court in an earlier ruling upheld the $363-a-month order.

 



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