Farm and ranch divorces face a few more unique complexities than a typical divorce. The first question often asked is, “What will happen to my ranch and livestock in or after my divorce?”  The ranch and/or livestock may be for business or for pleasure, but either way, the complexities exist. 

When dealing with a divorce involving a ranch, cattle and/or horse business, the spouses, and possibly other family members, are usually highly involved in the day-to-day operations of the business as each family member brings something unique to the operation. 

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It’s not uncommon for one spouse to run the financial side of the business while the other spouse runs the actual operation such as—training and showing the horses, buying, raising and selling the cattle, managing the ranch itself etc.  Customers add an additional layer of issues to be discussed and resolved.  It could be that some customers are more loyal to one spouse or the other, and this issue cannot be overlooked.

The first step in a ranch divorce is to evaluate how the business operates, to identify the key employees and to identify the customers.  If the spouses are considering co-owning the ranch business post-divorce, they will need to ensure that the employees as well as the customers are on board. If not, the spouses may want to dissolve or divide the business, or in some cases sell it.  In the event that they want to co-own the business after the divorce, they will need an operating agreement(s) and to legally reform the business.  Reformation is vital to the business running smoothly in the future.

Like any other business, a ranching operation has to be taken apart one layer at a time so it can be divided without destroying its integrity or to package it for sale.  Either way, special knowledge of farm and ranch operations is vital when a divorce is imminent.  It could be that the business is dissolved but the spouses agree to jointly own livestock post-divorce.  If so, it is important that things such as expenses, breeding rights, showing rights, and training are addressed.