What Happens to the Family Farm in a North Carolina Divorce?

A farm is a unique type of property, and it may be affected by a divorce in a number of distinct ways. If you are going through a divorce, it is essential to understand what might happen to your farm under certain circumstances. If you have been working on your farm for years, you probably do not want to lose it. Perhaps this farm has been in your family's possession for generations. Maybe you depend on the income that comes from the farm. You may not have any other job skills, so losing your farm can be like losing an entire career. 

Regardless of what you want to achieve with your divorce, it is vital to get in touch with an experienced family law attorney in North Carolina as soon as possible. Not only can our legal professionals explain what might happen to your farm due to your divorce, but we can also help you strive toward a favorable legal outcome. With our assistance, you can keep hold of your farm and continue with your life once your marriage ends. 

Separate Property vs. Marital Property

The basic foundation of property division in a North Carolina divorce is the distinction between marital and separate property. Marital property includes assets that you accumulated during the marriage. Separate property includes assets that you have accumulated prior to the marriage. It can also include assets that you accumulated after the date of separation. 

If you owned a piece of real estate before the marriage, it would be considered separate property. This means that you will not have to divide this property with your spouse during the equitable distribution process. Separate property also includes anything you inherited, either before, during, or after the marriage. If you acquired a piece of real estate during the marriage, then it will likely be considered marital property, and it will be subject to equitable distribution. 

Equitable distribution is when property is divided between spouses based on certain factors that a judge deems relevant. Note that equitable does not necessarily mean "fair," and this is not a 50/50 split. Several factors could be relevant, such as the length of the marriage, how much work one particular spouse puts into a business (such as a farm), and much more. 

The Sale of the Farm is Usually the Last Resort

You may be concerned about the possibility of your farm being sold as a result of your divorce. This is relatively rare, as courts in North Carolina generally want to avoid impeding the operation of a farm as much as possible. The only reason a farm might be sold is if there is no other option to split assets fairly. There are many other alternatives possible. For example, a spouse can keep sole control and ownership of the farm by "trading" another asset with their ex instead. 

If you own a farm, your spouse probably has a vested interest in keeping the farm operational. If the farm is your primary source of income, the ex should recognize that this income will be the source of future support, such as child support, alimony, and so on. 

The Farmhouse

Many families live in farmhouses located on the farm itself. This presents a slightly unique situation since the farmhouse, and the farm can be viewed as two separate pieces of property. In many cases, one spouse may continue to live in the family home while acting as the children's primary custodian. In contrast, the other spouse owns and operates the farm. 

The Role Your Spouse Played in Farming Operations

If your spouse played a significant role in farming operations, this could affect the outcome of the divorce. Even if your farm is considered separate property, the increase in value of that property can be considered marital, especially if your spouse worked on the property to increase its value. This is why many legal experts today recommend that farm owners actually pay their spouses a salary rather than simply allowing them to work on the farm for free. 

Enlist the Help of an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney Today

If you have been searching the North Carolina area for a family law attorney, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We recognize that farming is a significant part of not just North Carolina's economy but that of the entire nation. Supporting spouses who want to retain ownership and control of their farms is something we take very seriously. Book your consultation today.