How do you put a fair price on a family-owned ranch in divorce?

Marrying into a ranching family can be like moving to another country. Montana ranchers have their own culture that puts a lot of priority on family, land and hard work. Working on a family-owned ranch might mean that your spouse and you get to enjoy a much higher standard of living than you could with a similar income in a different industry.

For example, if the family incorporated the ranch, allocating shares of ownership to all the members of the family, your spouse may only hold partial ownership for the land while enjoying permanent residence for free on one of the houses that exist on the ranch’s acreage.

Both their unpaid benefits and their share of the ranch’s value should impact the outcome of the asset division process in your Montana divorce. In order to achieve a fair outcome, you need to find a way to put a fair price on the family-owned ranch and your spouse’s share of it.

Acreage often matters far more than the size or style of the home

When appraisers look at a residential property, the primary concern will be the size of the home and the condition of all of the major systems, such as the furnace, foundation and electrical systems. Appraising agricultural property involves a very different approach.

While the improvements or buildings on the property may represent substantial value, it is unlikely that the appraiser will look very closely at the buildings. Instead, they will focus their efforts on placing an appropriate price per acre on the land that your ex’s family owns.

The number of buildings and their condition can influence the price per acre, but water sources, microclimates, soil conditions and other environmental factors will also have a profound impact. Once an appraiser or real estate professional places a value on the acreage, you can then use that value to determine how much your ex’s share of the family ranch is actually worth.

You should take care with how you accept your share of marital assets

If the family has an incorporated ranch with ownership shares, the chances are very good that they will not want to pay out a partial share of that ranch to a former spouse in a divorce. Owning a part of the ranch would mean having a continued relationship with your ex and their extended family, something none of you likely want at this time.

Instead, they will likely want to offer you other assets. Think carefully about what income your ex actually brings home and whether or not they will be able to fulfill the financial obligations of the asset division process. You may need to request alternative assets, low amounts of long-term spousal support or other alternative resolutions to ensure a fair and reasonable split of your assets in a divorce involving a ranch.