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What happens to family farms during a New Jersey divorce?

While not traditionally known for agriculture, New Jersey actually boasts large tracts of farmland. According to the state’s government website, there are over 9,071 farms in it, sprawling across 715,057 acres.

Some of these farms are family ones passed down to generation after generation for decades or even centuries. If you own one of these and are in the midst of a divorce, you may worry about losing part or all of your legacy.

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state

Courts divide marital assets based on “fairness” rather than splitting everything down the middle and granting half to each party. If you entered the marriage with a prenuptial agreement, your farm and its associated equipment are safe. If not, it is more complicated. The key is whether the farm counts as marital property or not. Generally, property owned before marriage does not fall into this category, but its status may depend throughout the course of the union depending on the circumstances. With a farm, if your spouse contributed money, time or work to maintain it, a judge may see it as a marital asset instead of a separate one. There may be other legal complications as well.

A lack of liquid assets may mean selling equipment or livestock

The farm is not just a business. It is your spouse’s home as well as yours. This, along with the fact that you may have little to no money not tied up in the land, equipment and livestock mean you may have difficulty paying the divorce settlement. You may have to sell off pieces of machinery or other valuable property.

Many farmers and business owners use prenuptial agreements to avoid loss in case their marriages break. Whether your farm ends up broken up in the divorce depends on different factors.