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How to Start a Divorce Process in North Dakota

To divorce, either spouse should initiate the legal process. Get instructions to start a divorce process in North Dakota here.

Getting a divorce is never easy, but it can be transformative and, in some cases, even a safety necessity. An example is when there’s abuse or domestic violence involved. In North Dakota, nearly 30% of women and 18.5% of men experience such at the hands of their intimate partners.

However, you don’t have to be in an abusive marriage just to start a divorce process in North Dakota. While it is one of the grounds for divorce, Flickertail State laws allow no-fault divorces.

That means you can dissolve your marriage due to “irreconcilable differences.” This is among the most common reasons for divorce. In a survey, 31% of polled people said their marriage ended due to incompatibility issues.

There are still requirements to begin the legal process for your divorce, though. We’ve outlined them in this guide and the steps you must take, so please read on. 

Meet the Residency Requirement

Your marriage doesn’t have to have been in North Dakota to get a divorce here. However, if you plan to file for one in the state, you must have been a resident for at least six months. The court may also grant the divorce if you meet this requirement right before its judgment. 

Understand Your Divorce Options

Filing a divorce in North Dakota requires at least one of the spouses to begin the proceedings. Plaintiff or petitioner is the term used to refer to the spouse who starts the divorce. If you and your spouse file it together, you will be co-petitioners.

Under the state’s divorce laws, you can file for an uncontested, contested, or summary divorce. 

Uncontested Divorce

You can file for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree to dissolve the marriage. For example, the two of you agree that you have irreconcilable differences. In this case, you can file for an uncontested, no-fault divorce together.

It’s vital to note that a no-fault divorce isn’t the same as an uncontested divorce.

A no-fault divorce pertains more to the grounds for the divorce. An example is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or legal separation. Regardless of the cause, neither party must prove in court that the other is at fault for the marriage not working out.

In contrast, an uncontested divorce refers more to the spouses’ agreement to divorce. Although very common, the reason doesn’t always have to be irreconcilable differences. Provided both sides agree to the divorce, this is the simplest, quickest way to end a marriage.

You and your spouse must put the agreement in writing and complete all the paperwork together. Then, the two of you must file everything with the court.

If everything is in order, the court will likely grant the divorce without a hearing. This makes the entire process go much faster. This is also why an uncontested divorce is often called a simple divorce. 

Contested Divorce

If your spouse doesn’t agree to a divorce, you can start a contested divorce on your own. This is the same procedure you must follow if you can’t locate your spouse.

With a contested divorce, you can cite no-fault or at-fault grounds for filing the petition. However, since you and your spouse disagree, the court would have to intervene and schedule a trial.

At the trial, a judge or judicial referee will be present. They will address and decide unresolved issues on your and your spouse’s behalf.

How long a contested divorce takes depends on when you and your spouse reach an agreement. The court’s caseload also influences the timeline. In many instances, though, it takes longer to finalize than an uncontested divorce. 

Summary Divorce

Even if you and your spouse don’t agree on everything, you may not have to file a contested divorce. Instead, you could get a summary divorce if you and your spouse own assets with a value not exceeding $50,000. This total doesn’t include the value of your family home. 

Complete the Divorce Forms

To begin the divorce process, you must complete the correct petition forms. In North Dakota, these forms differ for couples with minor children and those without.

If you’re filing for an uncontested divorce with or without children, you can get the forms online. Visit the North Dakota Courts Legal Self-Help Center for Divorce to download them. You can also find the documents needed to file a summary divorce there.

Aside from those forms, you and your spouse must complete a written agreement. If you have children, it should detail how you plan to share child custody and support. It should also include details on how you will settle property division and alimony.

If you are filing for a contested divorce, you must create the documents yourself. This step is complex and time-consuming, and errors can delay the judge’s decision. For this reason, consider hiring a divorce lawyer for assistance. 

File the Divorce Papers

Does your spouse reside in North Dakota, too? If so, you must file the divorce papers in the County District Court where your spouse lives.

If your spouse lives in another state, you can file the divorce papers in your County District Court. 

Serve Your Spouse the Divorce Papers

After filing, you must “serve” your spouse copies of the documents you filed with the court. You can’t do this yourself; someone who is at least 18 years old and isn’t a party to the case must do it on your behalf. An example is through a third party, like a sheriff, who will deliver the documents to your spouse. 

Start a Divorce Process With Professional Help

Even an uncontested (simple) divorce can still be confusing and time-consuming. Things could get even more complicated if your spouse disagrees or doesn’t want to divorce.

Therefore, it’s completely understandable to want to rely on a compassionate divorce lawyer.

At Heartland Law Office, we can provide you with the legal guidance and services you and your family need.

Please don’t hesitate to speak with our team of experienced family law practitioners. We can help you start a divorce process in North Dakota and be with you throughout this stressful time.