If you’re one of Minnesota’s nearly 80,000 farmers, you face unique joys and challenges in all aspects of life — including marriage and divorce. While there’s no such thing as an easy divorce, the process can be particularly complicated when shared agricultural property and equipment are at stake. Keep the following considerations in mind as you proceed:
Valuing the Property
Property valuation is an integral component of any divorce. Unfortunately, farms and ranch values are uniquely difficult to pinpoint. A farm’s value includes not only real estate, but also equipment, livestock, and more. Because valuation is so complicated, each spouse often relies on a separate appraiser.
FarmFutures reports a five percent annual increase in farm debt since 2004. Dividing that debt can be complicated, particularly if one spouse was involved in the farming business before marriage.
Equitable Distribution and Separate Versus Married Property
As in most states, Minnesota courts divide shared property equitably. These means that one spouse may come away with a greater share of property than the other. Application of equitable distribution may differ in farm divorces, however — especially for a family farm passed down through inheritance.
Some farming couples pursue mediation or collaboration in hopes of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. If one spouse is more involved in the farming business, that person may come away with both farm property and debt, while the other may receive retirement assets, other property, or a lump sum. Some spouses waive property in exchange for larger alimony payments. Others choose to sell their farm and start fresh with equally divided proceeds. Additional solutions include long-term payouts or farmland rental.
No one approach works for every farming couple. With a spirit of cooperation and counsel from the right attorney, it’s possible for both spouses to thrive after divorce.
As a Minnesota farmer, you need advice from an attorney who understands the ins and outs of divorce in your home state. The law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. can help. Reach out today to learn about next steps in your divorce.