Divorce in North Dakota: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated March 26, 2024by Unbiased team

This article will take you through the processes and costs associated with divorce in the state of North Dakota.


  • North Dakota is a "no-fault" divorce state where marriages can be dissolved on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

  • North Dakota offers several divorce pathways tailored to various needs.

  • The costs of a divorce in North Dakota can vary depending on the type and complexity of the divorce. 

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in North Dakota?

North Dakota is a "no-fault" divorce state. Marriages can be dissolved on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, allowing couples to part ways without assigning blame. 

The state offers several divorce pathways tailored to various needs. These include:

  • Contested divorce: This type of divorce is for couples with unresolved issues such as asset division, child custody, or alimony. It often involves significant legal proceedings.

  • Uncontested divorce This benefits those in mutual agreement on all divorce matters, facilitating a faster and less costly process.

  • Summary divorce This suits partners without children and with minimal assets, providing a simplified and quick divorce option.

  • Mediated divorce Here, couples employ a neutral third party to assist in reaching agreements on divorce-related issues. This can reduce both financial and emotional stress.

How much does a divorce cost in North Dakota?

The cost of a divorce in North Dakota can vary significantly, influenced by several factors, including whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of asset division, and the need for child custody arrangements. 

An uncontested divorce, which is more straightforward, might cost between $500 and $2,000 in total, considering minimal attorney involvement and low additional costs. A contested divorce can start with a few thousand dollars and can escalate significantly depending on the duration and complexity of the case.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common costs associated with divorce in North Dakota:

  • Filing Fees: The process begins with filing a divorce petition, for which North Dakota courts charge a filing fee. As of the latest updates, this fee is approximately between $80 and $250. It's essential to check the current fee with your local courthouse, as it can vary.

  • Attorney Fees: Attorney fees are the most variable cost in a divorce. Some attorneys offer flat rates for uncontested divorces, but contested divorces are usually billed at an hourly rate. The complexity of the case and the length of time it takes to resolve can significantly affect total costs. On average, attorney fees in North Dakota can range from $200 to $300 per hour.

  • Additional Costs: Beyond filing and attorney fees, there are other potential costs to consider. These can include mediation fees, if applicable, court costs for processing documents, and fees for experts for different divorce-related issues. 

It’s crucial to note that each divorce case is unique, and costs can vary widely. Planning and discussing potential costs with your attorney early on can help manage expectations and budget accordingly.

How do you file for divorce in North Dakota?

Filing for divorce in North Dakota is a structured process that involves multiple critical steps. These include:

  1. Preparing and filing the divorce petition: Begin by completing the necessary legal forms, available online or at local courthouses. File these forms with the district court in the county where either spouse lives, along with the required filing fee.

  2. Serving the other spouse: Legally notify your spouse of the divorce action by "serving" them the papers, which can be done through a sheriff, process server, or by mail with consent.

  3. Responding to the petition: The served spouse must respond within 21 days, agreeing with or contesting the petition's terms.

  4. Requesting temporary orders: You can request temporary court orders for issues like child custody or asset use during the divorce process if necessary.

  5. Engaging in discovery: Exchange financial and other relevant information with your spouse to prepare for negotiations or trial.

  6. Negotiating terms: Attempt to resolve divorce terms through direct negotiation or mediation to avoid a trial.

  7. Going to trial: If negotiations fail, the case proceeds to trial, where a judge decides on unresolved issues.

  8. Finalizing the divorce: After reaching an agreement or receiving a court decision, the divorce is finalized with a decree from the judge.

How do you split assets in a divorce in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, the division of assets during a divorce is guided by the principle of equitable distribution. 

This doesn't mean assets are split equally, but rather fairly.

The first step in dividing assets is classifying them. Here, you want to identify marital (acquired during the marriage) and separate (owned prior to marriage, inherited, or gifted) assets. Only marital property is divided.

Assets can include real estate, bank accounts, and retirement savings.

Spouses are encouraged to agree on asset division themselves, which can be more amicable and cost-effective than a court decision.

However, in cases where this is not possible, the court will examine factors like each spouse's economic situation, contributions to the marriage, and the length of the marriage to divide assets fairly. 

How does alimony work in North Dakota?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a financial payment from one ex-spouse to the other. 

North Dakota recognizes different types of alimony, including temporary (during the divorce process), short-term (for education or job training), and long-term or permanent (especially in cases of long marriages).

The court considers several factors when determining alimony, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial circumstances, age, health, and contributions to the marriage, including homemaking and child care.

Alimony can be modified based on changes in financial circumstances. The duration of payments is determined by the type of alimony awarded and the specific details of the case.

What happens to children during a divorce in North Dakota?

North Dakota prioritizes children's well-being in divorce, emphasizing arrangements that support their best interests.

Parents are urged to develop a plan detailing custody, visitation, and decision-making processes. If an agreement isn’t reached, the court intervenes based on what's best for the child.

The court will make rulings on the following issues:

  • Child custody

The state prefers arrangements that maintain strong relationships with both parents, often considering joint custody. 

Decisions focus on the child’s best interests, including their relationship with each parent and the parents' living situations.

  • Child Support

A formula calculates support obligations based on parents' incomes and the number of children, aiming to preserve the child’s standard of living.

Changes in circumstances can lead to modifications in custody and support orders to better serve the child’s needs.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor who meets your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.


Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.