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Couple's Divorce Goes Before Supreme Court

October 2, 2012, 9:47 PM by Brady Mallory

Couple's Divorce Goes Before Supreme Court

Most of the time when a couple gets divorced, the case is settled in circuit court. In some cases, when a couple does not reach an agreement, they go to state Supreme Court.

That is where Kevin and Carmen Schieffer, a prominent Sioux Falls couple, are challenging a decision about custody and child support.

KELOLAND News introduced viewers to the Schieffers in 2009 in happier times.

But later that year, Carmen told her husband she wanted to move from Sioux Falls to New York City where she thought she could find better services for their then one-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome.  Eventually Kevin, then CEO of Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

During the original trial, Carmen requested more than $25,000 per month in child support.  The court awarded her a little more than $2,800 per month.  Kevin's attorney, Thomas Welk, said Kevin also pays for health insurance and a majority of costs for their daughter's treatments and said that makes the total child support closer to $14,000 per month.

The court also awarded Carmen almost $4 million and gave the couple joint custody.

"The court has said it's appropriate for a trial court to look at who has been involved before the spotlight was shining.  While I know the father will argue that he wanted to be involved, the record doesn't show that," Linda Lea Viken, Carmen's attorney, said.

Calling Kevin an absent father and Carmen the primary caregiver, Viken said joint custody is a mistake because it took away stability for their daughter and interrupted the breast-feeding schedule of the couple's then infant son.  Also at question, the amount of therapy treatments given to their daughter.  Though Viken said the child was doing well and thriving, Welk calls Carmen an over-protective mother.

"One of my most brilliant cross-examination questions was, 'Who is your child's playmate?'  That was the question I asked.  She didn't have any except maybe a couple of people.  This child was immersed in 1,600 hours of therapy," Welk said.

Both parents used a doctor to recommend custody arrangements that would be best for the children.  Carmen is trying to prove the court was wrong in choosing Kevin's doctor over her own. 

"When it comes down to that, and you look at two competing experts, it's the trial court's call to decide which expert to go with.  What's so fundamentally different about this case that would require we not do that," Justice Steven Zinter said.

This is the question justices will have to eventually answer in this appeal; and a decision will come at a later date.

Click on the play button below to watch the hearing.

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