Law Office of Robert D. Massey and Associates
Experienced Attorneys Serving Pulaski And Beyond

Who gets the farm in a divorce?

Farming is more than a job—it’s a way of life. To be a farmer, you need to give it everything you’ve got: body, mind and soul. You become part of the land, and it becomes part of you. That’s why it’s particularly hard when farming families divorce. How can you divide assets with so much personal significance? A business that carries such weight and meaning?

Dividing farms and livestock can require as much delicacy as a child custody arrangement, as equitable solutions can be murky and complex. What’s right for you will depend on a number of factors.

Prenuptial And Postnuptial Agreements

Some farm couples opt for prenuptial agreements before they get married. Such agreements can determine how assets will be divided in the event of divorce. Other couples elect to do this later, drafting postnuptial agreements that cover the same ground.

While these can be helpful, the reality is that people sometimes contest pre- and postnuptial agreements during a separation, and sometimes these agreements are deemed to be invalid. This is particularly true if the agreements are older, reflecting a prior state of affairs that may have changed significantly during the farm’s operation.

Ownership: Joint Or Separate?

Under Tennessee law, property that is “separately owned” has the potential to not be divided during a divorce. In the case of farms, it’s often the case that one spouse brought the farm to the marriage, possibly inheriting it from a relative.

However, the realities of farm life can quickly complicate the “separately owned” distinction. Consider the case where one person is the sole owner of the farm before the marriage, but their spouse contributes significant labor over many years towards its upkeep and value. Who “owns” the farm now? It’s not so clear.

Collaboration Or Court

One of the biggest factors in farm and livestock division is whether the couple is engaging in a traditional litigated divorce in the courtroom or opts for a collaborative divorce process, which may utilize a neutral financial expert. In the courtroom, judges have wide leeway to make decisions on property division. In a collaborative case, couples may be able to come up with a more nuanced division that works better for both parties.

No matter the details, figuring out what to do with the farm and livestock is a complex process. If you can keep acrimony and blame to a minimum, you greatly increase the chances that the process will be as smooth as possible.

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