Area of Law:
To begin a divorce proceeding in North Dakota, file a divorce complaint with your local court. You should file the divorce complaint in either the county where you or your spouse reside. The spouse filing the petition is the plaintiff, and the other spouse is the defendant. After the plaintiff files the divorce petition, the plaintiff must provide a copy to the defendant. You can obtain a divorce form from the North Dakota Supreme Court’s website http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/forms/divorce/forms.htm.
Like many states, North Dakota is a no-fault jurisdiction, meaning the spouses do not need to establish one spouse’s wrongdoing to be eligible to file for divorce. However, the plaintiff will have to select a reason for the divorce. The grounds for divorce in North Dakota include adultery, cruelty, desertion or willful neglect for one year, habitual intemperance for one year, conviction of a felony, insanity for at least five years, or irreconcilable differences. In addition, the filing spouse must live in North Dakota for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
The court charges a filing fee at the time you submit your divorce complaint for filing. The filing fee in North Dakota is $80. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive the cost. If the judge decides that you qualify for assistance, then you do not have to pay for your divorce. After the divorce complaint is filed, it usually takes one month to a year for the divorce to become final. The time it takes to finalize a divorce usually corresponds to the number of issues that must be resolved between the parties, including child custody and the division of the marital assets.
One issue that may arise during the divorce is the division of marital assets. Marital assets are property jointly held by both spouses and acquired during the marriage. Marital property does not include separate property. Separate property is property belonging to one spouse, owned either prior to marriage or acquired by gift or bequest during the marriage. The North Dakota court follows equitable distribution when determining how to divide marital assets in a divorce. However, equitable distribution does not mean that the court will divide martial property equally. In reality, equitable distribution allows the court to divide marital property in the way the court views as being just. When dividing marital property, the court considers several factors including the length of the marriage, and the property’s current use. In addition, the court distributes marital debts as well as marital assets during a divorce proceeding.
If you and your spouse can agree about the division of the marital property, consider drafting a marital settlement agreement. In North Dakota, a marital settlement agreement will enable the divorce to proceed faster than if the court must decide all issues for the spouses. However, coming to an agreement on settlement terms is often the hardest part of a divorce proceeding. Therefore, the court may recommend both spouses attend mediation to try to resolve any contested issues.
If you have additional questions regarding how to file for divorce, visit the North Dakota Judiciary’s website http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/forms/Divorce/Instructions.htm for additional assistance.