How to get divorced in North Dakota

Tags: Online Divorce, North Dakota

Image: Tammi Mild / iStock

By Steffan Lawson

Published Jul 27, 2022

North Dakota Divorce Requirements

  • In North Dakota, there are 3 kinds of divorce – summary, uncontested and contested.

  • To file for divorce in North Dakota:

    • The spouse filing for divorce should have lived in the state for 6 months before the divorce action began.

    • If the filing spouse does not meet the residency requirement, the court will still grant a divorce if the plaintiff spouse has lived in the state 6 months before the finalization of the divorce.

Grounds for a ND divorce

In North Dakota, you can get a “no-fault”, as well as a “fault-based” divorce.

Fault-Based Divorce

  • Adultery

  • Willful desertion

  • Extreme cruelty

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol

  • Conviction of felony

Proving “fault” requires that the plaintiff meet specific requirements. For instance, to become a ground for divorce, willful neglect or desertion should be going on for a minimum of 1 year. And, in the case that the court awards a divorce on the grounds of adultery by the wife, then the children’s legitimacy may be questioned and the court may ask to determine the paternity.

Step 1: Starting a North Dakota divorce

Preparing the Documents

To begin the divorce process, the requisite forms must be completed. These forms can be found online. If you are representing yourself, then there is only a single set of forms available online. However, you can make use of these forms only if your spouse and you don’t have minor children and you have an agreement on all the issues regarding the divorce with your spouse.

If your spouse and you do not agree on the various issues or both of you have minor children, then you cannot make use of these forms and you must contact the county court clerk for more details. If you are eligible to make use of these forms, then there are simple instructions that will guide you about what you should do.

Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce

Some of the forms required for a divorce in North Dakota are:

  • Summons: Informs the defendant that he/she has 20 days to file his/her “Answer” or there will be a default judgment against him/her.

  • Complaint: States that the ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences” between the spouses and they qualify for a simple divorce in North Dakota.

  • Verification: Certifies that the complaint is true and this must be verified.

  • Settlement Agreement: This specifies the terms and conditions for the division of the marital property.

  • Property & Debt Listing: This is filed only if there is an agreement to a property settlement between the spouses.

  • Admission of Service: This acknowledges that the defendant has received the Complaint and Summons copies and has accepted it.

  • Judgment: This document ends the marriage.

The forms needed to file for divorce can be downloaded from the website of North Dakota Supreme Court.

When your spouse and you have an agreement on all issues of the divorce, then you must complete the following forms:

Filing Your Forms

File all the original forms pertaining to your divorce mentioned in the instructions i.e. the Complaint, Summons, Affidavit of Proof, Admission of Service, Settlement Agreement along with the property/debt listing at your local courthouse along with the fees for filing the papers.

All your papers will be taken by the court clerk, who will place them in the court file and you will receive a letter by mail containing the file number of your case and the date when your papers were filed formally.

Step 2: Notifying your spouse

Once the papers are filed with the court, the Divorce Complaint and the Summons must be served on your spouse by one of the methods:

  • Certified Mail: You can send the papers to your spouse via certified mail (restricted delivery), with a return receipt. The restricted delivery papers and the receipt of the certified mail should be filed along with the Complaint and the Summons with the court and the person who mailed the papers must complete the “Affidavit of Service”.

  • Personal Delivery: If the defendant spouse agrees, then the plaintiff can deliver the documents to the defendant who must complete the “Admission of Service”, which must be then filed with the court.

Step 3: Contested or Uncontested divorce?

Contested Divorce (High Costs)

If your spouse and you disagree on some or most of the terms regarding the divorce, then your divorce is an “uncontested” one. You must fill the necessary forms and file them with the local court. In case of a contested divorce, there is no need to inform your spouse until the divorce complaint is filed and you serve the papers to your spouse.

Whereas, in the case of an uncontested divorce or a summary divorce, you must inform your spouse about your intention of getting a divorce because both of you must complete the forms before it is filed.

Usually, in the case of an uncontested divorce, your case will go to trial and will be heard by a judge, who will hear your case and take decisions on the various disputed issues. Contested divorces are usually more expensive and also take a long time.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Costs)

In the situation that your spouse and you have an agreement on all the issues pertaining to the divorce and you don’t have children, then you can file for an “uncontested divorce”.

To get an uncontested divorce, your spouse and you must complete the “Divorce with Agreement (no children)” form that can be found on the website of the North Dakota Courts and file it with the county court.

You can also get a “summary divorce” in North Dakota, which is ideal for couples who have an agreement on all the key issues of the divorce, however, it is specifically for couples who have assets that are less than $50,000, without the inclusion of their home. Couples with children can also file for a summary divorce.

Step 4: DIY or get a lawyer?

DIY divorce Papers (Slower & Least Costly)

If you decide not to hire a lawyer and represent yourself, then you must fill out the necessary forms which are available on the website of the Supreme Court of North Dakota (Mentioned in helpful section).

This process will take much longer and will increase the chance of you having to redo the paperwork, but you will save money.

Although these forms are the official, you must check with the court to ensure that the judge will accept the forms. Respond to all the questions thoroughly and completely. You can either fill forms out on your computer or fill out by hand legibly and neatly.

Those are the only forms you will need to file your DIY divorce. However, if your divorce is contested, you cannot make use of these forms and you must contact your county clerk for more details.

If you’re eligible to make use of the online forms, then there are detailed instructions that will guide you on what you should do.

Online Divorce Services (Fastest & Inexpensive)

If you don’t plan to hire a lawyer to assist you with your divorce, but at the same time, find that completing the documents is quite difficult and confusing, then you can use the services of an online divorce service.

All you need to do is to provide all the details of your case to the online service and all your papers will be completed by the online service according to your situation, and also according to the requirements of the law.

Once the documents are completed, you need to simply file them with the court clerk in your county along with the appropriate filing fees. The best provider in the space is 3StepDivorce and you can get started for as little as $84.

Attorney Divorce Trial (Longer & Expensive)

In the case that you do not agree on some or most of the main issues of your divorce with your spouse, then your case will go to trial, where it will be heard by a judge. The judge will then resolve the various issues.

If your case goes to trial, then it becomes quite complex and then your spouse and you must both hire a divorce attorney, who will present the case on your behalf to the judge along with the evidence, witnesses, etc.

If you both can avoid this, it is in both of your best interest to try to come to an agreement to avoid the burdensome cost of hiring an attorney.

Step 5: The main issues

Property division

The marital property is divided equitably between the two spouses in case of a divorce in North Dakota as it is an “equitable distribution” state. The court encourages the spouses to arrive at an agreement on the property and debts, otherwise, the court will decide the award of property.

If both spouses cannot agree on the property issues, then the court will divide the property equitably between both spouses when the divorce is awarded.

In the case that a spouse has not disclosed his/her property or debts as per the rules of the Supreme Court or if a spouse does not comply with the court’s order in distributing the property and debts, the court may re-divide the property post the judgment.

Alimony / Spousal Support

The responsibility of one spouse to support the other financially, either on a permanent or temporary basis is decided either by both spouses or as per the discretion of the court.

In case there is no agreement between both spouses regarding the spousal support, the court will consider the situation of both spouses and then order one spouse to pay alimony to the other. The court may also modify the spousal support and all the orders are usually made via the court clerk.

Child Custody Laws

If your spouse and you have minor children, then the court will do all that it can to reduce the emotional trauma faced by the child.

In case both the parents are unable to agree on all the issues regarding the child, then the court will decide on the basis of all factors that will affect the welfare and best interests of the child including:

  • The love and emotional ties between the child and parents.

  • Disposition and capability of the parents to give love and affection to the child and also continue the child’s education.

  • Outlook of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical or remedial care recognized by North Dakota instead of medical care, etc.

  • Duration of time that the child has lived in a stable environment and the desirability to maintain continuity.

  • Permanence as a family of the existing custodial home or the proposed home.

  • Physical and mental health of both parents.

  • Moral fitness of both parents.

  • School, community and home record of the child.

  • Preference of the child if the court feels that the child is reasonably understanding, intelligent and has sufficient experience to state his/her preference.

  • Any evidence of domestic violence.

  • Interaction/interrelationship or the potential for this of the child with any individual residing, frequents or is present in the home of the parent who can affect the child’s best interests significantly. The court will consider the individual’s tendency or history to inflict bodily injury, physical harm or the fear of these on other individuals.

  • False allegations made by one parent against the other in order to harm the child.

  • Any other relevant factors.

Child Support

The child support guidelines of North Dakota make use of the Percentage of Income Formula to calculate the support obligation of the non-custodial parent who is responsible for support of the child.

If both parents are unable to agree on the child support, the court will decide the same.

In this regard, the court will consider the incomes and other resources available to each of the parents and any extraordinary circumstance which may result in the inability of the parent to pay the particular amount on support. The support amount may be taken from the wages in order to ensure that the payments are accurate and timely.

And, unless the child support obligation dates of start or termination are specified by the court, the order for payment of child support begins in the month in which the order is signed by the judge and continues until the end of the month when the support obligation ends.

Step 6: Finalizing your divorce in North Dakota

Once your spouse is served and answered, then information is shared between your spouse and you, and both of you can try to reach an agreement on various issues without the need to go to court.

If your spouse and you are able to agree on all the issues, then you can submit the agreement to the judge, who may order an informal hearing to ensure that both your spouse and you understand the agreement. If the judge approves the agreement, then he/she can issue the divorce decree finalizing your divorce.

If your spouse and you don’t agree on the final settlement, then your case will go to trial, where both sides argue for what they want, present evidence, etc. and the judge will decide on the issues on the basis of what he/she thinks is fair and then issues a divorce decree along with the orders.

Once the divorce decree is issued, either after your spouse and you reach an agreement or you attend the trial, this document announces that your spouse and you are legally divorced and also orders the property division between the two of you.