What happens to the family farm in a divorce?

In Central Illinois, farming is a way of life, but that kind of life is not always a happy one.

If the married couple who owns the farm wants to divorce, looking ahead to the property division phase of the proceedings, what happens to the farm?

Losing emotional support

Divorce among farm families is becoming nearly as commonplace as mainstream divorce. The thinking is that in the coming years, divorce may be responsible for more insolvency in the farm business than any other factor. Part of this problem is that the person who marries a farmer may not be capable of providing the emotional support necessary; that is, he or she does not grow to love the farm the way the spouse does. However, no matter what factors lead to the decision to end the marriage, the farm is an asset that the court must distribute in an equitable manner.

Dividing property

Marital property consists of any kind of property that either spouse acquired during the marriage. A farm may be commingled property because one spouse owned it separately prior to the marriage, after which the spouses became co-owners and operated the farm as a family business. During property division, the goal is to maintain and protect the farming interests.

Performing a valuation

Farming is a business like any other in terms of assets to divide during a divorce. A professional must place a value on each of the separate farming interests before distribution can take place. Examples of farming interests include machinery and equipment, livestock, both growing and stored crops, and farmland.

Considering options

If the spouses are co-owners, there are options to consider. One party may want to sell out to the other. They may decide to sell the farm outright and split the profits. On the other hand, if they believe they can go on working together after the divorce, they may even want to continue as co-owners. 

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