Under North Dakota law, a legal separation and a divorce are similar in many ways. The only true differences are that a divorce will permanently end the marriage, while a separation will not, and a separation may be temporary, whereas a divorce is always permanent. Other than that, the requirements for a separation and a divorce are the same, including having to file paperwork with the court and identifying specific grounds of the cessation of the relationship. The legal reasons available to use for either divorce or separation are:

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion
  • Willful neglect
  • Abuse of alcohol or controlled substances
  • Conviction of a felony
  • 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 state for at least 6 months before you can file for a separation or a divorce. You also do not have to engage in any counseling before you can obtain a divorce or a separation.

What Paperwork Do I Need to File for Divorce?

There are three types of divorce in North Dakota: uncontested, summary, and contested. Each type of divorce has its own paperwork requirements. You can file for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse already agree on all of the issues that could come up during a divorce and do not have children. In order to get 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 court. A summary divorce is similar to an uncontested divorce in that it is intended for couples who can agree on the major issues of a divorce, but 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 can file for a summary divorce. You can obtain a summary divorce by filling out a Summary Divorce form, which can also be obtained from the North Dakota Courts website, with your spouse and filing the completed form with your local court.


Finally, there is contested divorce for couples who will disagree on certain things during the divorce process. Unlike summary and uncontested divorces, there is not a singular form that is provided by the court and can easily be filled out. 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 file a Summons form – Divorce or Separation Actions and a Confidential Information Form, the latter of which 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, you will also need to create and file an Affidavit of Custody Jurisdiction. You do 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, whereas you will need to inform your spouse of your intent to get a divorce before you file for an uncontested or a summary divorce because you will need their assistance in completing the form before it can be filed.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Like most states, North Dakota is an equitable property state. Instead of divvying up the assets owned by a couple equally between the spouses, a court will divide the assets in a manner that is fair in the eyes of the court. Unlike most states, North Dakota does not treat any property owned by either spouse as separate property. Any property that you own or that your spouse owns is considered part of your total marital assets and is subject to being divided equitably, or fairly, by the court. This even includes any property that you may have acquired prior to getting married.

What Should I Do If There Are Children Involved?

One of the most difficult parts of divorce for parents is figuring out child custody and child support. Parents getting divorced in North Dakota are provided the opportunity to sort 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 with 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 look at a number of different factors to decide what kind of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Hiring a lawyer to deal with just child custody and support can be quite expensive, so it is best if you deal with these matters while you are also sorting out the rest of your divorce.

Do I Need to Pay Alimony?

North Dakota does permit courts to grant spousal support for a set amount of time depending on the circumstances of the divorce. Spousal support can end 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 that it will aid the receiving spouse to get on their feet as an unmarried person, then it is viewed as rehabilitative support and cannot be terminated before its set end time.

Where Can I Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Going through a divorce is a difficult experience. You can make the experience more tolerable if you discuss 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 rights and interests in the proceeding.