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Legal Information: North Dakota

Divorce

Laws current as of December 28, 2023

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. Cent. Code § 14-05-03
2 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-05-09.1
3 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-05-05
4 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-05-07
5 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-05-08
6 N.D. Cent. Code §§ 14-05-06; 14-05-09

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce is when your spouse disagrees with anything in the case, including the divorce itself, the property division, child custody, or financial support.  A contested divorce is more complicated than an uncontested divorce.  It is best to have an attorney assist you with a contested divorce - especially if your spouse has one.  Go to our ND Finding a Lawyer page for legal resources in your area.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one where you do not expect your spouse to disagree with any aspect of the divorce or you do not think s/he will come to court for your hearing. In cases of uncontested divorce, you may represent yourself but a lawyer might still be helpful to make sure all of your rights are protected, especially if your spouse has one. To get an uncontested divorce, you may only have to file documents with the court. You and your spouse probably won’t have to make an appearance in court.

If you do not have any children and your divorce is going to be uncontested, the North Dakota Supreme Court Legal Self-Help Center website may have some of the forms you need.

What might I get in a divorce?

As a part of a divorce, you can get what the judge determines to be your fair (equitable) share of the marital property and debts.1  You may also be eligible for child support and/or spousal support. 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
  • 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. Cent. Code § 14-05-24(1)