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Do you need to divide farm or ranch assets in a divorce?

Imagine you and your spouse own a ranch or farm together. Now imagine that members from both of your extended families tend to the estate, taking care of farming tasks, managing the livestock and so forth. Now imagine that you and your wife want to get a divorce.

When a couple owns a farm or ranch together, it will complicate the asset division process. These proceedings are particularly unique because the property considerations are different from the usual divorce. As such, they require a unique approach.

Are both you and your spouse involved in the business?

It's not uncommon for spouses to operate their farms along with help from extended family members. These family members might be sons, daughters, parents or cousins. They might have a stake in the business, or they might simply be employees with expertise that fulfills a unique role in the operation of the business.

Maybe you run the financials for the business with your daughter, and your spouse and son do the hands-on work of training employees, buying and selling cattle, planting and/or running the farm or ranch itself. Then there are the customers. Perhaps you are the relationship point for certain customers and your spouse is the relationship point for other customers.

Determine how your business operates

As you can see, it's vital to determine how your business operates before you decide on an asset division approach. The asset division approach you select needs to be one that preserves the smooth operations and profitability of your farm or ranch, and minimizes any potential for negative effects caused by the divorce.

In some cases, spouses might decide to continue owning and operating the business together post-divorce. In other cases, spouses might prefer to simply sell the entire operation and split the profits. Whichever path you choose, you'll need to take apart the operation of your business layer by layer so you can divide it or prepare if for sale without harming its intrinsic value.

Develop a plan and stick with it

It's essential that you and your spouse learn to work with each other throughout the division of your farm or ranch assets. When spouses can take a business mindset toward this asset division process, develop a sound and logical plan, stick to the plan -- and keep their emotions away from the negotiation table -- it will increase the chances of achieving a successful settlement that honors the marital property rights of both parties.

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