Fault-Based Divorce In North Dakota

Will A North Dakota Court Grant Your Divorce?

October 31, 2019

In order for a North Dakota court to grant a divorce, the case must fall under one of the two classifications of grounds for divorce: fault-based or non-fault-based. Non-fault-based simply means that the court does not need to find either spouse at fault to grant a divorce, only that irreconcilable differences exist (which I will further explain later). Fault-based, on the other hand, requires one spouse to show the court that the other spouse committed one of the six types of marital misconduct. Of the seven grounds for divorce in North Dakota, six are fault-based. In other words, there are seven instances where a court will grant a divorce. These are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Extreme Cruelty
  3. Willful Desertion
  4. Willful Neglect
  5. Alcohol and/or Controlled Substance Abuse
  6. Felony Conviction
  7. Irreconcilable Differences


Adultery – Adultery is when one spouse voluntarily engages in sexual relations with someone other than their spouse during their marriage. The non-adulterous spouse must prove their spouse’s infidelity to the court.

Extreme Cruelty – Extreme cruelty is the infliction by one spouse of serious bodily injury or mental suffering upon the other. This can be proven by showing repeated acts of emotional or physical abuse or by one extreme act of physical abuse. Extreme cruelty must be proven to the court through evidence or witness testimony.

Willful Desertion – Willful desertion is the voluntary separation of one spouse from the other with the intent to desert them. A spouse can prove desertion by showing that their spouse has actually abandoned them and has had no contact with them for over one year. It can also be proven by showing that their spouse has constructively abandoned them by banning them from the marital home or by neglecting or refusing to provide for them. It is important to note that a spouse can defend this claim by showing that their spouse’s conduct, such as adultery, caused the alleged abandonment.

Willful Neglect – Willful neglect is the failure of either spouse to provide for the common necessities for the other when that spouse has the ability to provide and the party alleging neglect does not.

Abuse of Alcohol or Controlled Substances – A spouse must show that their spouse abuses alcohol and/or illegal substances. This will most likely need to be proven to the court through evidence and witness testimony to show that it has persisted over time and has negatively impacted the other spouse and their children, if applicable.

Conviction of a Felony – If one spouse has been convicted of a felony and that is the reason the other spouse wants a divorce, that will generally satisfy this ground.


Irreconcilable Differences – Irreconcilable differences is the only non-fault-based ground for divorce in North Dakota and is by far the most common. It simply means that no single spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, there is just no hope that the couple will be able to save the marriage. A court need only be shown that irreconcilable differences exist and that these reasons are substantial enough to not continue the marriage and effectively dissolve it.

We Are Here To Help

If you have any questions regarding the grounds for divorce in North Dakota and question how they would play into a potential divorce, please do not hesitate to contact the Family Law Team with Severson, Wogsland & Liebl, P.C. at 701-297-2890 or email us at info@swlattorneys.com.