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How to File For Divorce in North Dakota

A Divorce decree or order is a judgment that dissolves the marriage. The legal process is governed by Chapter 14 of the North Dakota Codes, and Rule 8 of North Dakota Rules of Court, and the North Dakota Court system oversees it. State laws demand that spouses who will petition the court to end their marriage should be residents of the state, have legally acceptable reasons for the divorce, and file the divorce in the local county district court. Due to the tendency for divorces in the state to be emotional and arduous for families, an adequate knowledge of the legal process, possible alternatives, and legal assistance could be beneficial to the spouses and families involved.

Typically, filing the paperwork of a divorce in North Dakota costs $289, but the costs may vary in some situations. For instance, in the cases of contested divorce proceedings, other costs such as legal fees and mediation costs may considerably increase divorces in New Dakota.

Do I Need a Reason for Divorce in North Dakota?

The State of North Dakota allows at-fault divorces based on seven statutory grounds. This implies that a suing party is alleging that the other party or spouse is the cause of the ending marriage due to engaging in either of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Cruelty, violence, abuse, or inhuman treatment
  • willful neglect and desertion of marriage
  • Addiction to drug/alcohol or any other controlled substance for at least one year
  • Mental instability or insanity for a period of 5 yrs.
  • Felony conviction
  • Irreconcilable differences

Each statutory ground requires the suing party to prove the existence of the misconduct or behavior. For instance, if the divorce is filed based on the other party’s willful desertion of the marriage, the suing party must prove to the court that the spouse left home willingly, intending to leave the marriage. When trying to prove the grounds of cruelty, the suing party must prove to the court with evidence and witnesses that the partner’s action led to physical or mental suffering. If the spouse’s fault is proven, the suing party may seek a larger share of the marital property, child custody, child support payments, and even alimony.

In addition to traditional at-fault divorces, North Dakota permits divorces on no-faults grounds. As a result, the state may grant a divorce without requiring the suing party to establish the other party’s faults. The state allows incompatibility to be used as a valid ground for divorce.

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.

Why do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

If the divorce involves children and significant financial issues, it is advisable to employ a divorce lawyer’s services. In these types of divorces, filing a divorce case without legal assistance could result in costly mistakes that are far greater than legal fees that apply when hiring an attorney; hence, it is advisable to hire a divorce attorney from the beginning of the case.

Legal assistance in a divorce case in North Dakota is even more important in the following situations:

  • If one of the spouses is financially dependent on the other
  • If the divorce settlement contains complicated financial assets, pension, business interests, trust funds, and many more
  • If the couple has joint marital debts and is uncertain of how to resolve them
  • If the filing spouse suspects that the partner is hiding relevant information, usually financial
  • If children are involved, and arrangements of where they will live, child maintenance, etc., need to be made

If the individual cannot afford to employ a lawyer, it is still advisable to consult with one by utilizing the state judiciary’s legal resources.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in North Dakota?

Before filing a petition, North Dakota laws require spouses plaintiffs suing for divorce must be residents in the state for at least six months before filing the divorce papers. Before starting a divorce case, the plaintiff must have legally acceptable reasons to do so. A divorce case can be filed in North Dakota on fault or no-fault grounds. A no-fault divorce is usually the most straightforward type of divorce, which doesn’t require the spouses to blame the other for the ending marriage. At the same time, a spouse can file for divorce based on the seven fault grounds recognized in the state.

  • Filing the divorce

Armed with a legally acceptable reason(s) for the divorce, the plaintiff that wishes to initiate the divorce may file a complaint or petition in the appropriate court, advisably with the help of a divorce attorney, especially in the case of a contested divorce.

Typically, if the defendant is a North Dakota resident, the petition should be filed in the county district court where the defendant resides. Otherwise, if the defendant is a non-resident, the divorce petition should be filed in the county where the plaintiff resides.

  • Serving the spouse

After filing the petition, the spouse will be served with a copy of the petition. This is to notify the individual that a divorce case has been opened in court, and the individual will be required to show up in court or contest the divorce. In North Dakota, the party that initiated the divorce cannot serve the notice in person. The filing party can contact the local sheriff’s office to get someone to serve the other spouse.

  • Response

The defendant must respond to the petition within 30 calendar days to avoid the court entering a default judgment that automatically favors the filing party.

If the defendant responds and agrees to the divorce terms, then the divorce is uncontested, but the divorce will be a contested divorce if the defendant disagrees.

  • Settlement and Trial

Both parties share information and attempt to reach a settlement or agreement through mediation. If they reach an agreement, they can draw up the paperwork for the court to review and approve. The judge may call an informal hearing to confirm if the agreement was fair. If it is approved, the court will issue a divorce decree.

A trial only ensues if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement. Here, the court will hear both sides’ testimony and decide on a fair agreement. Then, it will issue a divorce decree to finalize the case.

How to File for Divorce in North Dakota Without a Lawyer?

Filing for a no-fault divorce is a fairly straightforward process, unlike filing a divorce based on a party’s marital misconduct. This might not require the help of a legal representative, but the suing party will need to prepare some divorce forms to this effect. These official forms are obtainable online from the North Dakota Courts Self-Help Center. The suing party is advised to follow the simple instructions provided by the court system and be thorough when responding to the questions contained in the forms. It is important to note that these forms are only available to couples who agree on all terms stated in the complaint, and they have no minors involved.

Filling out the forms depends on if the individual is the plaintiff or defendant.

  • Plaintiff

The plaintiff will fill out the Summons, Complaint or Petition, the Settlement Agreement, and the Property and Debt Listing forms. After preparing the forms, the suing party should make copies, and the originals will be filed directly with the court.

After, a copy of each should be sent to the spouse via postal service, personally hand them over, or use a process server (the sheriff or any other adult). The server will provide the plaintiff with an “Affidavit of proof or Service” after the other party has been served. This document will also be filed along with other documents in court.

  • Defendant

The defendant will be required to complete an Acceptance/Admission of Service form and sign the settlement agreement and property and debt listing documents signed and filed by the plaintiff. The individual should also make copies and return the original to the plaintiff.

The suing party must visit the local courthouse located where either spouse resides to file the forms. Then the original documents should be filed after paying the agreed filing fees. If the individual cannot afford it, the court may waive the fee if the plaintiff completes the “Petition for Order Waiving Fees and Financial Affidavit.” The court clerk puts all these documents in a file and later mails the plaintiff’s assigned case file number and date.

The court judge will review the documents and either approve the divorce immediately or set a court hearing.

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 Does North Dakota Divorce Mediation Work?

North Dakota courts recognize that divorces could be arduous and attempt to ease the rough process through Family Mediation. According to the state supreme court, the Family Mediation Program was set up to provide an impartial and efficient forum to resolve divorce-related issues. It is designed to help both parties in a divorce to resolve complicated divorce-related issues amicably. Such issues include:

  • Custody and visitation issues
  • Child Support and maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Spousal support and alimony
  • Assets and property distribution
  • Distributing liability for debts
  • Spousal support

It is a brokering process that helps the parties determine their own outcomes rather than the court. The court lets them make their own decisions through these meditations because it believes that couples are in the best position to arrange their lives after the divorce is final. It is usually led by a neutral and unaligned mediator, who is trained and skilled in the mediation process. During this process, the disputing parties (accompanied by their attorneys) meet with the mediator. The individual guides the communication between both parties and guides them to explore different solutions till they reach a fair agreement. If the parties reach an agreement, a written agreement will be drafted for court approval, and it will contain all the terms that were agreed upon. If not, the case will be resolved in court.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in North Dakota?

Provided the divorce process is not complicated along the way, such as in the case of a contested divorce, the paperwork for a divorce in North Dakota can be processed within 180 days.

Mediation is typically staged to avoid the complications in a divorce such as debts, division of assets, child maintenance, custody arrangements, etc. If these complications are settled and agreed upon without court trials’, a mediation can speed up the entire divorce process. Resolving disputes using mediation is quicker and cheaper than full-blown court trials. It saves time and legal fees and creates settlements and agreements tailored specifically to each party.

Are Divorce Records Public in North Dakota?

Divorce Records in North Dakota are public records and are therefore considered public information. As such, they are accessible on request and open to any individual or entity that is capable of providing adequate information about the record of interest. However, if the record is sealed by court order or information within the record is exempted by law, it will be unavailable for public inspection.

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 North Dakota Divorce Records?

North Dakota divorce records are only obtainable from the office of the county clerk or recorder in the county where the divorce was finalized and the license issued. Inquirers can find the specific county where the divorce was decreed by calling (701) 328–2360. They can also request locational information by sending an email request to

They can also lookup divorce records on the State of North Dakota Courts system web portal, where they can search through both District and County court cases. These records are available for a fee, and the applicable fees vary by county.

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