For generations, your family has owned, lived on and operated the farm on which you reside and work now. As you and your spouse consider and plan to divorce, however, you now worry that you could lose the land your family has for so long cared for.
If you own a family farm, jointly with your spouse or individually, you may benefit from understanding how the court will likely handle your land during your divorce.
Inheritance often plays an important role in determining claim to family farms during divorce cases. With few exceptions, property passed down does not classify as shared property for the purposes of the division process. Therefore, if your parents passed down the farm to you when they retired or passed away, then you may have a stronger claim to keep it in your divorce.
According to Bench + Bar of Minnesota magazine, to maintain family farming operations, the court may issue disproportionate property division awards. Able to consider factors such as your and your spouse’s occupations, amounts and sources of income, vocational skills and your estates, the court will sometimes see fit to give farmer-operators greater shares, or all the shares, of shared family farms.
Your family dynamics and business arrangements may also complicate dividing the farm during your divorce. For example, you do not have a formal contract, but you have integrated an adult child into the operation of the farm. The unwritten agreement between you would have your child work for less than the going rate, with the promise that you will eventually pass on ownership to him or her. Therefore, your child may take legal issues should you sell the property in the course of your divorce.
Splitting up what you amassed together does not have to mean breaking up what your family has worked generations to build. Understanding how the court will likely view and deal with your farm during a divorce may help you protect your property, as well as your family’s future.