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North Dakota Divorce Summons Questions

North Dakota Divorces: 3 Common Questions About The Summons Asked And Answered

/ Family Law

If you’ve been served with a Summons in a divorce action, then it is very possible these questions are on your mind.

1. The Summons says I can’t remove my children from the state. Does this mean I can’t take them to Florida to go to Disney World next week?

Like any good attorney, I am going to answer this question with a “maybe.” I am asked this question frequently, which I believe is due in large part to our proximity to our neighbor state of Minnesota. A Summons specifically states that “Except for temporary periods, neither spouse may remove any of their minor children from North Dakota without the written consent of the other spouse or order of the court.” This provision is a requirement of North Dakota Rules of Court 8.4.

If your intent is to take a one week trip to Disney World over Christmas with your children and extended family, then go! The intent of this provision in the Summons is not to stop you from taking trips with your children, or going to the Dairy Queen over in Moorhead, it is meant to stop parents from permanently removing their children from the state of North Dakota in the middle of a divorce proceeding.

However, if your intent is to permanently move you and your children to Florida, and go to Disney World, then you better cancel your tickets, unless your spouse consents or the Court enters an order allowing you to relocate the children to Florida. If you have any questions on permanently relocating, I would encourage you to read my blog Divorce with Children: North Dakotan for Life? Not Always for more information.

2. The Summons says I can’t dissipate assets. What in the world does that mean?

It means you cannot spend money, except for the necessities of life, generation of income, preservation of assets, retention of counsel, or to carry on the divorce you are now a party to. This provision is also required by North Dakota Rules of Court 8.4, and the exact wording can be found here.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, dissipation means “the use of an asset for an illegal or inequitable purpose, such as a spouse’s use of community property for personal benefit when a divorce is imminent.” After you have been served with a divorce Summons, it is a terrible, I repeat terrible, decision to gamble away everything in your savings account, or cash out your retirement and spend it on something worthless or illegal, like drugs. While these examples are the most obvious, there are also other less obvious and seemingly innocent acts that can result in a dissipation of assets. For example, in Crandall v. Crandall, the District Court found that a party dissipated marital assets by spending unnecessarily on nonessential items such as clothing and by failing to pay on joint debts, resulting in unnecessary debts, late charges, and finance charges.

Don’t panic. This provision does not prohibit you from selling stock, taking out a loan against your pension, or selling your 1967 Camaro for fair market value. As long as you are spending money so you can live, selling something so you can generate income or preserve other assets, or so that you can retain an attorney and defend yourself in your divorce, your spouse should not be able to claim you are dissipating assets. The bottom line is you need to be smart with any and all financial decisions during a divorce.

If you absolutely need to dispose of, sell, or encumber an asset during the interim of your divorce you are obligated to provide an accounting to your spouse within 30 days. Be aware that this same requirement obligates an individual to provide an accounting for any dissipated assets, too.  

3. My spouse and I have come to an agreement and don’t want to go to Court. Is this possible?

This is usually possible. There is no provision in North Dakota law requiring that people have a contested divorce proceeding. In fact, plenty of divorces are resolved before they ever really begin because parties are able to agree on everything and are able to enter into, what is often called, a Marital Termination Agreement. The Court does not usually require the parties, or attorneys, to appear if they are able to resolve all pending issues in their case. However, you may have to appear if the Court believes the agreement is unenforceable, or does not result in an equitable division of the marital estate.

If you find yourself involved in a divorce and you have questions, please give us a call. There are three of us at SW&L who handle exclusively family law cases, including divorce and custody related issues. If you have a family law issue that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to call 701-297-2890 and ask for Jeni, Greg, or Benjamin or email me at jennifer.albaugh@swlattorneys.com, Greg at greg.liebl@swlattorneys.com or Benjamin at benjamin.freedman@swlattorneys.com.

The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.