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What Should You Know When Getting a Divorce in North Dakota?

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If you want a divorce in North Dakota, there are several things you should know and do. Learn more about this process by clicking right here.

North Dakotans who have decided it is time to end their marriage aren’t alone. In recent years, there have been approximately 2,000 divorces per annum across the state.

There’s no shame in admitting you have to go your separate ways with a partner. Our society treats the whole process as devastating when for many it’s a relief. That said, there is still a legal divorce process you must follow regardless of your unique situation.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to get a divorce in North Dakota. We’ll tell you about the types of divorce there are, and when you should call a divorce attorney for help.

Basic Requirements for Divorce in North Dakota

First, you must be a legal resident of North Dakota for at least six months. You can still file for divorce before that point, though you’ll have to wait. The state won’t issue the decree until you reach six months of residency.

Where to File

You cannot simply file in any North Dakota State District Court that you like. It must be in the home county of your defendant spouse.

The only exception is if they live out of state. In that case, you can file in your own home county.

Types of Divorces

Divorce breaks down into roughly two categories in North Dakota:

  • No-fault or fault-based divorce
  • Uncontested and contested divorce

Your divorce will tick one of the two boxes in each category. Let’s take a deeper dive into what these things mean.

No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce means there are no accusations of malicious, intentional behavior. Both partners are seeking to split based on personal differences. This includes situations where one partner seeks dissolution with a reluctant (and innocent) partner.

This is the fastest, easiest divorce to obtain. It requires no argument about who was responsible for the marriage’s conclusion. According to North Dakota law, marriage must experience “irreconcilable differences” to be no-fault.

Fault-Based Divorce

Fault-based divorces concern splits with unacceptable treatment of one or both partners. Marriages with the following issues fall under a fault-based divorce:

  • Spousal abuse (physical or emotional)
  • Infidelity/Adultery
  • Willful negligence of a spouse
  • Willful desertion of a spouse
  • Substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs)
  • Felony conviction during the term of the marriage

Of course, you would need to prove this in court with evidence. Fault-based divorces will take much longer.

Fault-based divorces exist mainly to help victim partners. If your spouse is abusive or manipulative, this lets you demand assets and alimony.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce means both spouses have no disagreements about the course of action. They must draft a written settlement agreement.

This agreement is a legal compromise detailing the dispersal of assets. It’s meant to prevent future disputes and minimize litigation that may result.

In essence, you are deciding now how the divorce will end. You solve the complicated problem of who gets what. This saves a lot of time since the court does not have to make that determination itself.

You’ll need the following to file:

  • Proposed divorce judgment
  • Listing of property and debts
  • Complaint
  • Summons

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce means that spouses are not in unanimous agreement.

The line is a bit blurrier here. A contested divorce may mean that you only disagree on one or two things. Or, there could be complete disagreement on all fronts.

If you can’t find any way to reach an agreement, then this is your solution. You’ll likely need the help of a divorce attorney.

Sadly, North Dakota does not provide simple forms for a contested divorce. It’s up to you to work out the paperwork. For this reason, we recommend bringing on legal aid to sort everything out.

Summary Divorce

A summary divorce is a simplified procedure for couples in specific situations. It works even when there is not a unanimous agreement between spouses. You only have to attend a single court hearing on an informal basis.

Unlike an uncontested divorce, your assets must be less than $50,000 in value. This includes $100,000 for your home. This divorce works best for young couples or recent marriages.

Custody and Alimony

If you have children, questions of custody and alimony may get very complicated. Even in an uncontested divorce, you will need a court decision on what happens to your kids. Here are a few key points to keep in mind.

Type of Custody

Generally speaking, there are two types of custody:

  • Sole custody
  • Joint custody

Joint custody is the most common. Each case is different, so you will need to find an arrangement. In the majority of cases, the child lives with one parent and then visits the other.


If one spouse is unable to financially support child-rearing, they may require financial reimbursement. This is alimony, also known as child care.

The court alone will determine alimony payments, even in uncontested divorces. This will depend on who is the major breadwinner, who has a stable career, and so forth. For this reason, it’s very common for a man to pay alimony to a formerly stay-at-home wife.

How to Get a Divorce in North Dakota

Regardless of the reasons, the divorce process is similar in most cases. Let’s discuss each step one by one.

Pay Filing Fees

Filing for divorce in North Dakota costs $80. If you can’t afford this, you may be able to request a waiver. As long as the court grants your waiver, you can file all the paperwork fee-free.

Serve Your Spouse

Unless this is an uncontested divorce, you must serve your spouse legal notice. This legal notice is a copy of the paperwork you filed in court.

You cannot serve them yourself unless they accept a waiver agreement. The server must be another adult (18 years old), and one that is not part of the case. Options include:

  • Third-party personal services (sheriff or legal aid)
  • Sending the demand by post

Attend Court

With the help of your lawyer, you will attend all required court dates. How long it takes depends entirely on your type of divorce. Unique circumstances may draw things out.

Ultimately, the court will determine the end result regardless of the type of divorce. They will decide how to distribute assets and how to assign child custody. They will also set specific amounts for monthly or bi-monthly alimony payments.

Find Legal Help With Heartland Law

Divorce in North Dakota is almost identical to most other states. Uncontested and no-fault divorce are the fastest and easiest avenues. Contested and/or fault-based divorce both require the courts to weigh in.

Heartland Law Office can help you navigate the complexity of divorce laws. Visit us here for a free case evaluation.

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