While no spouse seeking a divorce ever expects the process to be simple, many are often surprised about how expensive the process can be. Between attorneys’ fees and court costs divorce proceedings that drag on for months (sometimes years) can be very costly. Uncontested divorces are often a convenient option for couples who are willing to part ways amicably.
TIP: Click here for the complete guide to filing for uncontested divorce.
While the State of North Dakota does not formally have a separate “uncontested” divorce process, a divorce filing can proceed very quickly and inexpensively through the court system where both spouses have previously agreed on the terms of their divorce.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and North Dakota uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in North Dakota, Defined
As discussed above, the State of North Dakota does not have a separate process for uncontested divorces. Like in many other states, spouses who wish to file for divorce in North Dakota will simply file for a basic divorce. There are ways to make the divorce process move much more smoothly, however. if the spouses seeking a divorce wish to finalize a speedy divorce without creating significant hassle, they should consider filing for a no-fault divorce. In filing for a no-fault divorce, the parties simply need to plead that there are irreconcilable differences in the marriage.
A no-fault divorce is contrasted to an at-fault divorce, in which one spouse claims that the other spouse ruined the marriage (commonly argued at-fault grounds include adultery and domestic violence). At-fault divorce is usually an adversarial proceeding, which means that lawyers will have to argue and prove whether the wrongdoing complained of actually occurred. This often causes the dramatic increases in fees and court costs that those who look for uncontested divorces want to avoid. Additionally, the spouses can smooth out the divorce process by agreeing beforehand what the terms of the divorce will be. This type of agreement, often referred to as a separation agreement, is a central feature of a no-fault divorce proceeding.
Requirements for Seeking a North Dakota Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in North Dakota, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced North Dakota divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement to file for a divorce in North Dakota is the North Dakota state residency requirement. Under North Dakota law, the party filing for a divorce in North Dakota must have lived within the state for at least six months before filing a divorce complaint.
The only other requirement for filing a divorce is that the filing spouse must be able to prove that a proper ground for divorce exists. As discussed above, there are no-fault and at-fault ground for divorce.
While a separation agreement is not a requirement of filing for divorce in North Dakota, it can help expedite the no-fault divorce process and should be considered.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is important for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may also be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork.
Under North Dakota law, a judge will rule on any issue that the parties have not already agreed on privately. Because judicial rulings take time and increase court costs, it is normally beneficial for spouses seeking a divorce to come prepared with a private agreement on all of the following issues:
- Division of marital assets, property, and debts;
- Alimony payments (also referred to as spousal support);
- Tax deductions and exemptions;
- Payment of attorneys’ fees (if any); and
If the couple has children born of that marriage:
- Child custody and visitation (this includes deciding which parent the children will live with) and
- Child support (including an agreement on the costs of medical expenses and health insurance).
If the parties to a divorce lawsuit come prepared with all of these issues ironed out, the only thing the court will be required to do is sign off on the divorce. This is what is known as a “stipulated” divorce judgment. Remember, however, that a separation agreement is merely an agreement between two parties and the court cannot usually alter the agreement later unless the agreement itself allows for such modifications.
Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you. This is a safety precaution that ensures that the agreement does not accidentally (or intentionally) favor one spouse in an unexpected way.
The Process for Filing an Uncontested Divorce
To file for divorce in North Dakota, the filing spouse must file a summons and complaint with the court and then “serve” the non-filing spouse in accordance with the rules for service of process. Once the non-filing spouse has been served, the court will set a hearing date.
For assistance in filing the proper divorce paperwork, you should consult with a local North Dakota family law attorney. Alternatively, you can find all of the required forms for both contested and uncontested divorce on the North Dakota court’s website.
If prior to the hearing, the parties have agreed on all relevant issues, they do not have to appear before a judge, and instead simply file an Affidavit of Proof for Stipulated Judgment. By “stipulating” to the divorce and separation agreement and filing any other required paperwork (such as a property and debt listing form, and a parenting plan), the spouses can quickly move the divorce proceeding to its conclusion. If the judge finds no problems with the filed paperwork, the judge can immediately grant a divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.