Under North Dakota law, a legal separation and a divorce are similar in many aspects. The main difference is that a divorce will permanently end the marriage, while a separation will not. Also, legal separation may sometimes be temporary, whereas a divorce is always permanent.

Other than that, the requirements for a separation and a divorce are generally the same, including filing the proper paperwork with the court and identifying specific grounds for the termination of the relationship.

The legal reasons for filing for either divorce or separation are:

  • Adultery;
  • Extreme cruelty;
  • Willful desertion;
  • Willful neglect;
  • Abuse of alcohol or controlled substances;
  • Conviction of a felony; and
  • Irreconcilable differences.

While you do not have to be separated from your spouse for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce, you will need to have lived in the North Dakota for at least 6 months before you can file for a separation or a divorce. You are also not required to engage in any counseling before you can file for divorce or a separation.

What Paperwork is Needed to File for Divorce in North Dakota?

There are three main types of divorce in North Dakota: uncontested, summary, and contested divorce. Each type has its own paperwork requirements. You can file for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse already agree on all the issues that would come up during the divorce and do not have children.

In order to obtain an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will both need to complete a Divorce with Agreement — No Children form, which can be found on the North Dakota Courts website, and file it with the appropriate court.

A summary divorce is similar to an uncontested divorce in that may be utilized by couples who can agree on the major issues of a divorce. However, it is different in that it is specifically for couples whose assets are under $50,000 (not including their home).

Unlike an uncontested divorce, which cannot involve children, couples who have children may file for a summary divorce. You may file for summary divorce by submitting a Summary Divorce form, which can also be obtained from the North Dakota Courts website. You and your your spouse may file the completed form with your local court.

Finally, there is contested divorce for couples who disagree on certain items or issues during the divorce process. Unlike summary and uncontested divorces, there is not a singular form that is provided by the court. Instead, you will need to draft your own complaint and file it with the court.

You will also need to obtain from the court, fill out, and submit a Summons form — Divorce or Separation Actions and a Confidential Information Form. The latter contains information that may be necessary but cannot be a part of the public record, such as each spouse’s social security number. If there are children involved in the process, you will also need to create and file an Affidavit of Custody Jurisdiction.

You will not need to inform your spouse about your intention to file for divorce if you are seeking a contested divorce until you have already filed your complaint and serve the complaint to them. In comparison, you will need to inform your spouse of your intent to get a divorce before you file for an uncontested or a summary divorce. You may need their assistance in completing the form before it can be filed.

How is Community Property Different from Separate Property in North Dakota?

Like most states, North Dakota operates as an equitable property state. Instead of dividing up the assets owned by a couple equally between the spouses, courts will divide the assets in a manner that is considered to be fair in the eyes of the court. Unlike most other states, North Dakota does not treat any property owned by either spouse as separate property.

Any property that you own or that your spouse own is considered part of your total marital assets. As such, it will be subject to being divided equitably, or fairly, by the court. This even includes any property that was acquired prior to getting married.

What Should I Do if Children are Involved in a Divorce Filed in North Dakota?

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for parents is determining child custody and child support. Parents getting divorced in North Dakota are provided the opportunity to work these issues out themselves without the court getting involved.

If you are filing for a summary divorce, you will need to come to an agreement regarding child support and child custody before you file the official paperwork with the court. If parents cannot decide on these matters on their own, the court will examine a number of different factors to decide what kind of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do I Need to Pay Alimony in the State of North Dakota?

North Dakota allows courts to grant spousal support or alimony for a set amount of time depending on the circumstances of the divorce. Spousal support may be terminated early if the person receiving it remarries or lives with another person in a relationship similar to a marriage for at least a year, unless the support is rehabilitative.

If the spousal support is ordered with the intent of aiding the receiving spouse in getting on their feet as an unmarried person, then it is viewed as rehabilitative support. As such, it cannot be terminated before its set end time.

Where Can I Find the Right North Dakota Divorce Lawyer?

Going through a divorce is a difficult experience. You can make the experience more tolerable if you review the matter with a North Dakota divorce lawyer. They can advise you as to what you can reasonably expect to receive through the divorce and how you can best assert your legal rights and interests in the proceeding.