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Divorce and the ranch: How it's divided

Divorce isn't pretty in the easiest and most straightforward of situations, but when you're a married couple living and working on a Montana ranch, divorcing can get incredibly complicated. The land may be the most valuable thing that you own, as a couple, but it may also be part of one spouse's family heritage. There may be familial, cultural, or emotional value in the land that requires careful consideration.

Unless you signed prenuptial agreements about the ranch, chances are good that the valuation of the land, the equity you've accumulated in it, and your income will all need to be carefully scrutinized by the courts. This is one of the biggest reasons why you should retain a skilled divorce attorney as soon as you're considering divorce if you live on, work on, or own a ranch in Montana.

How to determine the value of the ranch

The amount that is the assessed value for your annual tax bill isn't going to be accurate in terms of what the land and all its improvements are really worth. From the value added by secondary wells in pastures, to fencing, trees, and other forms of landscaping or even outbuildings, there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into consideration.

Is the land valuable because of retained but unexploited oil or mineral rights? Is there development planned nearby that could radically increase the value of the land in the upcoming months? Does the land itself provide for part of the lifestyle of the inhabitants, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life than their taxable income would indicate? All of these factors and more can affect how much value the court places on a ranch, and therefore, how much equity is expected to be shared with your spouse.

An appraiser, an accountant, and a lawyer may all need to work together to come up with an accurate valuation. If you're going through this process, don't leave these final figures to chance. Speak with your attorney about a proactive approach that can reduce the kind of last minute fluctuations that can shock and dismay some during divorce proceedings. Not taking the right steps to value and protect your property could result in losing it. In some cases, that loss can also result in criminal charges and a lost future.

Protect your ranch with a skilled divorce attorney

One of the most important things an attorney does during a divorce involving a farm or ranch is ensure that the distribution of assets and debts is fair and is conducted in a way that allows for the work on the farm or ranch to continue as much as possible.

Whether you're the one filing for the divorce or you're being divorced and need to be proactive to protect your assets, retaining an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible increases your odds of protecting your ranch and your livelihood during this tumultuous time.

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