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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in North Dakota

In North Dakota, divorce is the dissolution of a marriage by the court. In an annulment case, the court also delivers a judgment about the marriage; however, the effects of the court’s judgment in both cases are different. While divorce legally terminates or dissolves a legal marriage, annulment voids the marriage, that is, makes the marriage non-existent. The District Court hears cases of divorce and annulment in North Dakota, and each process follows the court’s civil action procedures.

What is a North Dakota Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is the court’s final order that dissolves a marriage. The divorce decree contains the case or docket number, the divorced parties’ names, financial information, the settlement agreement, and other information that the court requires. The settlement agreement is the couple’s agreement about divorce-related issues such as alimony, property division, and parenting plan.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in North Dakota?

Annulment renders a marriage void. In North Dakota, when the court issues a Decree of Nullity, the court declares that the marriage never happened. There are several grounds for annulment in North Dakota (N. D.C. C. § 14–04–01),, including:

  • Either party was below the legal age of consent at the time of marriage.
  • Either party was still married to another living spouse at the time of the marriage.
  • Either party was mentally incapable of consent at the time of marriage.
  • Either party obtained consent from the other party by fraud or force.
  • Either party was physically incapable of entering marriage at the time of marriage.
  • The parties are closely related.

Some of the grounds for annulment have time limitations (N. D.C. C. § 14–04–02).. For example,

  • Legal action must commence within four (4) years of attaining the legal age of consent for underaged parties. Alternatively, legal guardians of the underage parties may begin legal action on the party’s behalf before the party attains the legal age of consent.
  • In cases where either party was still married to another, living person at the time of marriage, either party may file for an annulment while both parties are still alive.
  • In marriages where either party’s consent was obtained by fraud or force, the injured party or the victim must file for action within four (4) years of discovering the fraud or of the injury.

Parties who are ineligible for annulment may file for divorce. Interested parties may request annulment records from the District Court Clerk in the county where a judge issued the Decree of Nullity. Such parties must be able to provide record-identifying information, such as parties named on the record and date of the decree.

Annulment vs Divorce in North Dakota

Parties who wish to terminate marriages may do so through divorce or annulment. It is worth noting that although both processes serve to end marriage unions, the requirements and effects of each process differ. In North Dakota, an annulment is the court’s declaration that a marriage does not exist, while a divorce is the legal dissolution of a valid marital union. A marriage can only be annulled in North Dakota on the grounds of incest, bigamy, fraud or coercion, physical and mental incapacity. State laws provide for fault divorces; however, North Dakota is also a no-fault divorce state. This means that residents may file for divorce based solely on irreconcilable differences (N. D.C. C. § 14–05–03).. North Dakota also has residency requirements for divorce; either party must have been a resident for at least six (6) months before the time of filing or before the court grants the final divorce order.

Similarities exist in the divorce and annulment processes. For example, each process begins when a petitioner files a complaint and a summons. Each process also includes issues like property and asset division, and where the couple has minor children, child support, custody, parenting plan, and visitation rights. Divorce and annulment are final when a judge issues a final decree.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In North Dakota?

The annulment and divorce processes in North Dakota involve costs such as court and filing fees, surcharges, attorney fees. Since both processes can also involve issues such as child support, child custody, and property division, both incur associated costs. Considering the aforementioned issues, an annulment is not cheaper than divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in North Dakota?

An uncontested divorce is one where parties are in communication with each other and agree about issues, including alimony or spousal support, debt, and asset division, and where dependent or minor children are involved, child custody, child support, parenting plans, and visitation rights. Parties in an uncontested divorce do not need to attend court hearings, and as such, the process is typically faster and less expensive than contested divorce cases.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in North Dakota?

Interested and eligible parties may use the forms that the courts provide for uncontested divorces with children and without children. After the petitioner files the complaint for divorce and summons, the petitioner must ensure that the defendant receives the summons and a copy of the complaint. The court will schedule an initial hearing after service; however, since the couples agree, hearings are not mandatory.

Parties must then file a settlement agreement with an outline of all the couple’s agreements. The parties must sign the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement is only enforceable after the judge’s approval. If the court finds that the agreement and other documentation meet all the requirements for an uncontested divorce, the judge will grant a divorce.

Interested parties may obtain copies of uncontested divorce records from the court clerk or record custodian of the District Court in the county where a judge finalized the divorce.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Get A Copy Of My Divorce Decree In North Dakota?

Divorce decrees contain confidential information about the divorced parties, including financial information, social security numbers, and others. As such, divorce decrees may only be accessible to authorized persons such as persons named on the record and legal representatives of such parties. To obtain copies of a divorce decree in North Dakota, interested parties must submit records requests to the District Court Clerk in the county where the divorce was granted.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get a North Dakota Divorce Decree Online?

Interested parties may search North Dakota court records online through the Court Records Inquiry portal. However, divorce decrees and certified copies of divorce records are only available at the County Clerk’s Office in the county where a judge issued the divorce order. Interested parties may submit records requests in person or by mail. Parties who need help determining the county of request may contact the Division of Vital Records by phone at (701) 328–2360 or by email at

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