Originally published by Hendershot, Cannon and Hisey, P.C. Blog.
Rodeo is a time-honored tradition in Texas, with Houston laying claim to some of the largest events in the state. Whether they’re small-town rodeos and stock shows or big city events, Texas rodeos thrive because they are supported by tightly knit communities often comprised of families – the same types of families that continue to farm, ranch, and raise livestock for all types of purposes across the state.
Like any family, rodeo and ranching families also sometimes go through divorce. When they do, they can face a number of legal issues many other spouses do not. That’s due in large part to their unique assets, including cattle, horses, and other livestock. Because not every attorney has experience handling divorce cases involving these types of assets, it’s important to work with the right lawyers who can help you understand how they’re handled in divorce, and how to best protect your rights and interests when it comes to complex property division.
Unique Assets: Ranches & Cattle
Whether owned for business or pleasure, livestock are assets most divorcing spouses do not have. Rodeo spouses and spouses who own livestock and cattle may also own other unique assets, such as:
- Farms or ranches
- Specialized machinery / equipment
- Structures such as barns, stables, and homes
- Oil, gas, or mineral interests
- Water rights
- Crop and livestock rights
- A family business
- Service contracts / professional relationships
During a divorce, all assets (and debts) must be evaluated carefully in order to assess whether they are separate or community property, and value them appropriately for the purpose of property division. These are two critical matters that can determine the fate of cattle and any other unique assets owned by rodeo and ranching spouses.
- Separate or Community Property? – Texas is a community property state, which means that most assets, property, and debts acquired during the course of a marriage belong to both spouses and must be divided equitably, not necessarily equally, during a divorce. Separate property, which can include certain assets acquired by one spouse before marriage or as an inheritance or gift, are not subject to property division. Because separate property can become community property (such as when marital funds are used to support cattle rearing, horse breeding, ranching, or other businesses established prior to marriage), distinguishing what is community property subject to division can be a difficult matter that requires meticulous evaluation, as well as forensic asset tracing in some cases.
- Valuation – When assets are determined to be community property, they must be split, sold, or co-managed. Spouses who are able to negotiate and reach agreements out-of-court may choose to sell assets and divide the profits, provide one spouse with the assets and offset the value through buy-outs of the other spouse’s share, or relinquish other assets. Because the value of community property plays a critical role in property division, assets like cattle, livestock, and ranches often require an expert valuation to address factors such as the fair market value of livestock, special breeds, offspring, breeder bulls, and frozen semen or embryos, among others. Livestock and horse valuation can also be impacted by subjectivity, which is why attorneys you choose need to not only have experience handling these cases, but also professional connections with industry experts and appraisers who can help determine value, and ultimately your fair share.
- Division & Resolution – Accurately characterizing community property and valuation are critical aspects of property division, especially in matters of cattle, horses, and related farm or ranching assets, and they are used to aid attorneys in facilitating resolutions. Because there may be personal attachment to these assets, as well as the desires of spouses who want to continue rodeos or ranching after divorce, arriving at agreements to divide, buy-out, and / or offset value with other property requires diligent negotiations for out-of-court agreements, or skilled preparation to litigate at trial when agreements can’t be reached.
Aside from unique assets, the individual goals of spouses, their ability to compromise, and applicable Texas laws for property division all contribute to what happens to cattle, horses, and other assets when rodeo or ranching spouses divorce – which means the attorneys you choose need to know how to effectively reconcile these issues with your rights and best interests in mind.
Many law firms simply do not have the experience or resources needed to value and divide unique assets like cattle, horses, and ranches. At Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C., our lawyers do.
Since 1987, we’ve helped numerous clients across Texas protect their fair share during complex divorce cases, including those involving rodeo and ranching spouses who operate family businesses or partnerships, or own unique assets for personal hobbies. Because we know every case is different, we work personally with clients to create customized solutions.
If you have questions about divorce involving these issues, call (713) 909-7323 or contact us onlineto request an initial consultation.