This is a complete guide to divorce in North Dakota.
In this guide, we’ll address your burning questions – including some you probably didn’t even think to ask!
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and avoid the pitfalls), we’ve got you covered.
Let’s get started.
- What Are Grounds for Divorce in North Dakota?
- Legal Separation vs. Divorce
- Annulment vs. Divorce
- What are your Options for Getting a Divorce in North Dakota?
- What is the Process of Getting a Divorce in North Dakota?
- Can I File for Divorce Without an Attorney?
- Can I File for Divorce Online?
- Can I Mail Divorce Papers?
- Refusing or Contesting a Divorce
- How Long Does a Divorce Take in North Dakota?
- Expediting Your Divorce
- What is the Cost to File for Divorce in North Dakota?
- Contested vs Uncontested Divorces
- Fault-based vs No-fault Divorce
- Divorce Decree vs Proof of Divorce
- Can I Reverse a Divorce in North Dakota?
- Bifurcated Divorce
- How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in North Dakota?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
What Are Grounds for Divorce in North Dakota?
North Dakota is both a no-fault and a fault-based state. You can either cite irreconcilable differences or you can state one of the following legal grounds for seeking a divorce:
- Extreme cruelty
- Willful desertion
- Willful neglect
- Abuse of alcohol or controlled substance
- Conviction of a felony
Legal Separation vs. a Divorce
Legal separation is almost the same as divorce in North Dakota. The biggest difference is that two people who are not divorced are not free to marry other people.
Some people choose legal separation to take a time out from their marriage. Others choose it for religious reasons or to keep certain economic advantages such as health insurance or preferred tax status.
A separation agreement must be signed by the spouses. It is a legal and binding contract that is enforceable by the courts.
Annulment vs. a Divorce
An annulment declares that a marriage in North Dakota is either invalid or void. This is the equivalent as if the marriage never took place.
Annulments are difficult to obtain, but can be granted if any of the following legal grounds are met:
- Underage: one or both spouses married under the age of consent, which is 18. If either person is under 16 at the time of the ceremony, the relationship is void.
- Bigamy or polygamy
- Mental incapacity, either spouse is not mentally fit to consent to a marriage
- Fraud by means of one partner misrepresentation
- Duress or coercion into marriage through the threat of physical harm, or if consent to the marriage was obtained by force.
- Physical incapacity, defined as unable to have sexual intercourse and fulfilling the obligations of marriage
- Incest that include marriages between acknowledged relatives and illegitimate children.
In some cases, statutes of limitations apply. For example, requesting an annulment on grounds of a spouse’s physical incapability or physical coercion must be filed within four years after the marriage.
Annulments require a trial and a hearing, with the ground for the action that must be proven in court.
What are your Options for Getting a Divorce in North Dakota?
How you go about the process of divorce in North Dakota will be driven by your personal circumstances and the amount of conflict you have with your spouse.
You have several possible options:
This is known as an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on all the issues in advance, you can file paperwork with the court stating this fact, and you will usually be granted a divorce in a short amount of time, the least amount of emotional stress, and the lowest possible costs.
If you have limited assets and can agree on all issues, you can go through a Summary Divorce, which further streamlines the process.
This is similar to a DIY divorce, except that you rely a lot more on pre-printed forms and online services or attorneys to help you complete the required paperwork.
For this, I highly recommend 3 Step Divorce – A Premium Online Divorce Solution. Their simple platform is the perfect way to facilitate your online divorce.
You meet with a neutral third party who helps you work through the areas of disagreement you have, such as property division, child custody and visitation, and related issues.
When you strike an agreement, you draw up a proposal and submit it to the court for approval. This is a quicker, cheaper, and less contentious route for many couples than going through a full-blown trial.
This is an option for couples who still have a fair amount of cooperation and trust between them. Any disagreements are resolved respectfully and amicably using attorneys who are specially trained in collaborative law. That is less costly than other forms of divorce and leaves decisions with the couple, and not a judge.
Litigation is a traditional approach to divorce. You and your attorneys engage with your spouse and their attorneys in an attempt to negotiate a settlement before going to trial.
About 95% of all litigated divorces end this way. If you can reach an agreement through a negotiated settlement or arbitration instead of a trial, then you can save some time and aggravation.
When two people have tried other ways of settling their marital affairs, and there is a high degree of conflicts and outstanding issues, a trial often results. These can be long, drawn-out, and expensive with a judge who will make rulings based on applicable state law.
You may also not like the rulings that are decided by a judge, and you’ll have little recourse in most cases to modify the results.
Read More: A Beginner’s Guide to Divorce Mediation
What is the Process of Getting a Divorce in North Dakota?
A North Dakota State District Court may grant a divorce, even if neither spouse was married in North Dakota.
The plaintiff must have been a resident of North Dakota at least 6 months before starting the divorce. Alternatively, the plaintiff must have been a resident of North Dakota for 6 months immediately before the District Court grants the judgment of divorce.
The plaintiff files initial paperwork with the court and pays a filing fee (unless the fee is waived).
The court will review the forms, and if they are approved, the documents can be served on the defendant. Proof of service must be filed with the court to show this step has been completed.
In an uncontested divorce, where all issues have been decided in advance, the court will set a hearing date within a couple of months. If the court agrees with the terms of the proposed settlement between both parties, the divorce will be finalized immediately after this review.
In a contested divorce, the parties will need to either enter some kind of negotiations (mediation, collaborative divorce), or proceed to litigation where a judge will listen to the evidence and make rulings on things like child custody and support, alimony, a division of assets, and other critical issues.
Can I File for Divorce Without an Attorney?
Yes. You can represent yourself in a divorce in North Dakota. You will be expected to follow the same rules and procedures as if an attorney was representing you.
This can work well for uncontested divorces, but if you have disagreements with your spouse, it might be a wise idea to retain an attorney to protect your interests.
Can I File for Divorce Online?
You can start the process online by working with a firm that will help you complete initial paperwork or with an attorney who can assist you via email.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
But once the paperwork is complete, you must file in person at your local North Dakota courthouse.
Can I Mail Divorce Papers?
To start a civil action such as a divorce, you must arrange delivery of the summons and a copy of the complaint/petition to the defendant.
The summons and a copy of the complaint/petition must be delivered in specific ways. Rule 4 of the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure gives the requirements for service to start a civil action.
In general, service of the summons and complaint/petition can be handled by:
- Personal service
- Obtaining the other party’s signature
After the mailing is complete, you will need to submit an affidavit showing that the required papers were sent by mail by providing a return receipt or by the written admission of the other spouse.
North Dakota state law further states, “If a summons and complaint or other process is mailed or sent with delivery restricted and requiring a receipt signed by the addressee, the addressee’s refusal to accept the mail or delivery constitutes delivery.
Return of the mail or delivery bearing an official indication on the cover that delivery was refused by the addressee is prima facie evidence of the refusal. Service is complete on the date of refusal.”
Refusing or Contesting a Divorce
If your spouse wants a divorce, you can’t refuse to get divorced, but you are free to contest the terms of the divorce.
Contested divorces take longer and are more expensive and are sometimes the course you need to take to protect your interests with an uncooperative or overbearing spouse.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in North Dakota?
It depends. In an uncontested divorce, the process takes about 60 days. The exact amount of time will depend on court scheduling and case backlogs.
Contested divorces take much longer, often lasting several months and up to a year or more, depending on the complexity and nature of the unresolved issues.
Expediting Your Divorce
The best way to expedite your divorce in North Dakota is to work cooperatively with your spouse to resolve your issues with as little confrontation as possible. An uncontested divorce removes delays and legal hurdles that you would otherwise have to endure when you are in disagreement. It’s also cheaper and less stressful, too.
If you do have disagreements, you can speed things along by being attentive to requests for information, appear on time at all court dates, and be willing to be flexible when attempting to negotiate the terms of your settlement.
What is the Cost to File for Divorce in North Dakota?
Fees are $80 for a plaintiff to file for a divorce in North Dakota.
To file a response, a defendant will need to pay a $50 filing fee.
These fees can be waived if you don’t have the ability to pay and can demonstrate that need to the court.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce means that you and your spouse do not agree on all the issues related to ending your marriage. You will need to negotiate the issues and if you can’t agree, you may need to litigate the issues in front of a judge.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse agree to all issues before you file for divorce. These types of divorces are cheaper, quicker, and less stressful for everyone concerned.
No-fault vs Fault-based Divorce
North Dakota allows both kinds of divorces. A no-fault divorce simply means that spouses agree there are irreconcilable differences. No other reason needs to be stated. It is the most common form of divorce because it is the easiest and quickest way to proceed.
The state also allows for fault-based divorces. A spouse can cite a specific reason for wanting to get divorced, many times to gain an upper hand in settlement negotiations. In North Dakota, these reasons include:
- Extreme cruelty
- Willful desertion
- Willful neglect
- Abuse of alcohol or controlled substance
- Conviction of a felony
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Divorce Discovery
Decree of Divorce vs. Proof of Divorce
You are not officially divorced in North Dakota until a final judgment of divorce is approved by a judge and filed with the Clerk of District Court. This is a legal document that details all of the terms of your divorce. You must follow the terms or you could face possible legal actions to compel you to adhere to the terms.
Can I Reverse a Divorce in North Dakota?
In North Dakota, if you are the petitioner in a divorce, you can stop a divorce case by filing a request to dismiss the divorce complaint. This effectively reverses your decision to seek a divorce. The earlier in the process you do this, the easier it is to complete. A defendant cannot file a petition to dismiss.
Once a final judgment has been signed by the judge, the divorce is final, and you will not be able to reverse the legal action.
Bifurcated divorces are divided into two separate legal actions. Rather than hold up all parts of a divorce, most issues are settled and the outstanding issues are resolved at a later date.
Courts are reluctant to grant bifurcated divorces because it creates judicial inefficiencies and also creates a disincentive to finalize a divorce action.
How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in North Dakota?
Adultery is one of the grounds that can be used to seek a divorce in North Dakota. You will need to prove adultery took place which is more difficult than simply citing irreconcilable differences.
However, some people choose to go this route because when adultery is present, it can also be used to further support a claim for alimony.
Changing Your Name
As you prepare your divorce forms, you will be able to choose to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
It’s a long process to contact each company and figure out what to send where. To lighten the load, we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to prevent the 10+ hours of paperwork and research that you would have to do by yourself.
Be Sure to Read: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a lot of divorce resources that make big claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
We’re very excited to share these tools and resources with you because we’re certain that using them will make your entire divorce process faster, easier and simply better.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- Online dating
- And a whole lot more
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