How to Obtain Court Records in North Dakota
North Dakota’s court system starts with municipal courts which have jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances, such as trespassing, excessive noise, or unregistered animals. At the next rung of the judiciary are district courts, which are located in each of North Dakota’s 53 counties. These are the general trial courts, with jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases, juvenile issues, family matters like custody and divorce, and landlord-tenant disputes.
Above the district courts is an intermediate court of appeals which hears disputes over the decisions of lower courts that are assigned to it by the supreme court. The state supreme court hears appeals of lower court rulings and oversees the judiciary in the state.
Obtaining court records
There are many situations in which having a copy of a court record or document can be helpful, including proving that a fine or settlement has been paid, to get a protective order enforced, as proof of property rights, and to show that your term of probation or parole has been served.
This website is a good starting point for obtaining court records: http://publicsearch.ndcourts.gov/default.aspx. Once you know the case number and other important details you may request official copies from the clerk of the court where the case was heard by using this directory: https://www.ndcourts.gov/court/Courts.htm.
Some court records may be restricted due to the inclusion of confidential information such as juvenile case details, medical information, or the names of victims of certain crimes. These records may be withheld or redacted to remove sensitive information.
At the time of divorce, the division of shared property and assets, any name changes, child custody arrangements, and alimony payments are specified in the decree, which is approved by a judge. This document can be helpful to keep on hand as it is key to enforcing the agreements within. To get a copy of your divorce decree, contact the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted.
In North Dakota, district courts have jurisdiction over probate, which is the process of distributing property and assets among heirs. The court has published guidelines here: http://www.ndcourts.gov/ndlshc/InformalProbate/manual2011.pdf. Records are filed with the district court in the county where the person lived. Inquire with the clerk of the district court to make copies of any records.
Millions of acres of land in North Dakota is owned by Native American tribes. State courts do not have jurisdiction over much of this territory. For information on Native courts, see this page: http://indianaffairs.nd.gov/legal/.
The U.S. District Courts handle bankruptcy cases. These are federal courts that are located in each state and also have jurisdiction over some criminal trials and civil cases that involve multiple states. To research federal cases, start with www.pacer.gov and contact the U.S. District Court clerk in North Dakota for copies of documents.