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Divorcing with a ranch in the family

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2017 | High Asset Divorce

Divorce can take a complicated turn for those who own a significant amount of real estate, especially if it is a ranch or other large tract of land with significant value. Here in the West, many families own hundreds of acres of land stretching out across America’s majestic middle, and when divorce comes knocking, it’s not as simple to divide up this type of asset as it might be to decide who keeps the family work truck.

If you are facing a divorce that involves a ranch, you have a hefty task ahead of you. Regardless of the details of your marriage, it is important to understand the scope of the assets and liabilities your marriage holds and find a truly fair way to divide these so you can go your separate ways.

Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done. For those who own and operate ranches or farms, it usually means that the land is not merely recreational, but also part of a business of some kind. In many cases, a ranch involves not only land, but also housing and other types of structures, heavy machinery, livestock, employees and regular customers.

Finding a truly fair way to divide these assets requires skill and experience. If you face this situation or something similar, be sure to consult with an attorney who understands the nuances of complex assets and real estate so that you can chart a clear path to a new season of life after marriage.

Understand the value of your property

This type of circumstance involves many moving parts, and often both spouses are fairly involved in the nuts and bolts of the operation. Commonly, one spouse is more conversant in the financial aspects of owning and maintaining a ranch or farm, while the other has more hands-on experience in the day-to-day side of the operations.

In these scenarios, there is little room for one spouse to claim that the business or the land is not marital property. If one spouse does choose to make this claim, it is very important to understand why and on what grounds this spouse hopes to make this argument.

In order to find a fair division of such a phenomenally complex asset, you must first understand the finer points of its whole value, as well as its associated liabilities.

A professional business valuation is helpful in such a situation, as well as some form of property appraisal. A business valuation helps take stock of every aspect of a business from a neutral position, so both spouses can fairly understand the scope of the issue. Aspects that a business valuation may take into account include:

  • The value of the underlying real estate
  • The profitability of the operation and its prospects for growth or loss over several years
  • The value of associated property like livestock, machinery and structures
  • Any liabilities against the business or the land itself
  • The cost of operations for the ranch as a whole

These are some, but not all of the key points a business valuation may consider.

Once both parties understand the full scope of the matter, you can work towards a fair division of marital property.

Get the help you need to finalize the divorce

You might feel as though it’s easier to throw your hands up and run for the door. Sure, that might be easier, but it is certainly not fair or just. Although dividing up a complex asset is difficult and time-consuming, you can enlist the guidance of experienced professionals to help along the way, working toward a fair divorce that recognizes your rights and privileges.


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