What is divorce?
Divorce is a legal action that ends or “dissolves” a marriage. Here are the basic steps for getting a divorce:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state. See Am I eligible to file for divorce in North Dakota?
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage. See What are the grounds for divorce?
- Third, you file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling his/her side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” If s/he contests it, then you will have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse agrees with everything, then s/he will most likely sign the papers and send them back to you. If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this is called an “uncontested divorce.”
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided or if you need financial support from your spouse, then you will have to work that out either in an out-of-court settlement or in a series of court hearings. Custody can be decided as part of your divorce.
You and your spouse can agree in writing to be legally separated and agree to support payments paid by one of you to the other and arrange a plan for child support. A court can enforce these written agreements, unless a judge decides that they are extremely unfair to one of the parties.1
1 N.D.C.C. § 14-07-07
What are the grounds for divorce?
“Grounds” are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce.1 In North Dakota, there are different grounds for fault and no-fault divorces.
The only ground for a no-fault divorce is irreconcilable differences. This means that the judge will look to see if there are good reasons for not continuing the marriage.2
The grounds for a fault-based divorce are:
- Adultery - your spouse is unfaithful or cheats on you;
- Extreme cruelty - one spouse causes serious bodily injury or mental suffering on the other;3
- Willful neglect - when your spouse refuses to provide common life necessities;4
- Abuse of alcohol or controlled substances - the use must be severe enough that it affects business or causes great mental suffering for an innocent spouse;5
- Imprisonment in a state or federal prison for committing a felony. The spouse must be in prison at the time of the filing for divorce.
- Desertion - any of these things count as desertion:
- Refusal to have intercourse for a year, if a medical condition doesn’t make refusal necessary;
- Refusal to live in same house as one’s spouse for a year, as long as the refusal is not because the spouse is violent or threatening violence; or
- You agree to separate, and then one of you wants to reconcile and the other doesn’t.6
1 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-03
2 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-09.1
3 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-05
4 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-07
5 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-08
6 N.D.C.C. §§ 14-05-06; 14-05-09
What might I get in a divorce?
As a part of a divorce, you can get what the judge determines to be your equitable (fair) share of the marital property and debts.1 You may also be eligible for child support and/or spousal support. To read more about under what circumstances a spousal support order can be terminated, you can go to our ND Statutes page. Custody can also be decided as part of the divorce. You can read more about custody in North Dakota on our Custody page.
You may also be able to ask the judge for other types of relief like:
- Changing your name back to your maiden name;
- Health insurance coverage for you and your children that is paid for by the other spouse; and/or
- Naming of your children as beneficiaries on your ex-spouse’s life insurance plan.
To find out more information, we suggest talking to a lawyer. Go to our ND Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
1 N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24(1)
Will my children's last name change after I get a divorce?
No, divorce proceedings alone will not change your children’s last name. If you want to change their last name, you will have to file for their name change separately in court. The other parent has to be notified and has the right to argue against the change.
To change your child’s name, you’ll need to file a petition in the court of the county in which you live. Your child will have to have been a resident of that county for at least six months. You will also need to include the following information in your petition:
- the name requested; and
- the reason why you want to change the name.1
A notice of the intended application must be published in the official newspaper of the county in which the minor lives and if different, in the official newspaper of the county in which each of the minor’s parents live. The judge can waive this requirement if you provide evidence that you are the victim of domestic violence.2
1 N.D.C.C § 32-28-02(1)
2 N.D.C.C § 32-28-02(3),(4)
Where can I find additional information about divorce on WomensLaw.org?
You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.