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Starting a District Court Civil Action


In North Dakota, a state district court civil action starts with service of a summons on the Defendant. A copy of the complaint must be served with the summons. Filing a summons and complaint with the state district court does not start a civil action.

The party who starts a civil action with service of a summons and complaint is called the Plaintiff. The party who is served with a summons and complaint requesting civil legal action against them is called the Defendant.


A summons directs the Defendant to answer the complaint within a certain amount of time. The summons notifies the Defendant that a default judgment will be taken against them if the Defendant does not answer within the timeframe.


A complaint is a written demand or request for judgment for the relief the Plaintiff is seeking. The complaint describes in short, plain statements the claim, or claims, showing that the Plaintiff is entitled to relief, and a demand for relief.

Service of the Summons and Complaint

Service to start a civil action, also called service of process, requires delivery of a copy of the summons and the complaint to the Defendant. The Plaintiff is required to notify the Defendant of the claims and to give the Defendant time to respond.

The proof of service to start a civil action tells the state district court when, how, and where the Defendant was served. An affidavit of service gives the court proof of service.

Forms and Guides for Starting a District Court Civil Action

Forms are not available for every legal issue or circumstance.  If you do not find the form on this website, the form is not available through the North Dakota Legal Self Help Center.

You may need to create legal documents yourself.  The General-Use forms below may be used as a starting point for creating your own summons and complaint documents.

Informational Guide:

Checklists and General Use Forms:

Selected Statutes (Laws) & Rules

Following are legal research starting points related to starting a district court civil action. You may need to conduct additional legal research into your legal issue.  See the Legal Research Section of this website.

Other Resources

Following are other resources related to starting a district court civil action that may be of interest.

If you do not understand any of this information, or if you have trouble filling out any of the forms located here, please see an attorney for help.

The information provided on and obtained from this site does not constitute the official record of the Court. This information is provided as a service to the general public. Any user of this information is hereby advised that it is being provided "as is". The information provided may be subject to errors or omissions. Visitors to this site agree that the Court is not liable for errors or omissions of any of the information provided.

If you have a question relating to a case that is already filed please contact the clerk of court for the county.