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  • Writer's pictureEric Schlimgen

From the Corral to the Courtroom: Tackling Ranch and Agricultural Divorces with a Lawyer Who Understands Your Way of Life

Eric, a seasoned divorce lawyer with years of experience in family law, has encountered a diverse array of cases throughout his career. One area in which he has developed expertise in is handling ranch/agricultural divorces. Ranch/agricultural divorces present unique challenges compared to more conventional divorces due to the complexities involved in dividing substantial assets, including land, livestock, and agricultural equipment as well as understanding operating lines of credit. If you are in the ranching/livestock industry, you know you have too much at stake to require nothing less than a seasoned litigator on your side.

One of the primary challenges in ranch divorces is determining the equitable distribution of property as well as operating debts often associated with these operations. Ranches regularly represent not only a significant financial investment but also a way of life for the parties involved. Eric understands the emotional attachment that individuals have to their ranches and works diligently to ensure that their interests are protected during the divorce process.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has consistently recognized the principal factors to be considered in making an equitable property division as: (1) the duration of the marriage; (2) the value of the property; (3) the age of the parties; (4) the health of the parties; (5) the parties' competency to earn a living; (6) the contribution of each party to the accumulation of the property; and (7) the income-producing capacity of the parties' assets. Vander Pol v. Vander Pol, 484 N.W.2d 522, 524 (S.D. 1992); Kanta v. Kanta, 479 N.W.2d at 508; Ryken v. Ryken, 461 N.W.2d 122, 126 (S.D.1990); Baltzer v. Baltzer, 422 N.W.2d 584 (S.D.1988).

Additionally, ranch divorces may involve intricate valuation processes. Determining the value of a ranch requires careful assessment of various factors, such as land acreage, improvements (such as barns, corrals, and fences), livestock inventory, water rights, mineral rights, and potential income from agricultural activities. Eric collaborates with appraisers, financial experts, and other professionals to obtain accurate valuations and ensure that his clients receive a fair share of the marital estate.

Moreover, arrangements for ranch assets, such as livestock, can pose unique challenges. Eric helps clients navigate issues related to the division of livestock, including determining ownership, breeding rights, and care responsibilities. He strives to reach amicable agreements whenever possible but is prepared to advocate vigorously for his clients' interests in court if necessary.

Eric's litigation experience means that he is prepared to advocate vigorously for his clients in court if necessary. He can skillfully present complex financial and legal arguments to protect his clients' interests and secure favorable outcomes. His track record of success in handling ranch divorces gives clients confidence that their case is in capable hands.

Another aspect of ranch divorces that Eric Schlimgen addresses is the potential impact on the viability of the ranch itself. Divorce proceedings can disrupt operations and jeopardize the financial stability of the ranch. Eric works with his clients to develop strategies aimed at preserving the continuity of ranching operations while also addressing the financial implications of the divorce. Often times the ability to just “split everything” does not work, resolutions can involve long-term payment plans to keep the ranch in operation. The South Dakota Supreme Court has stated that in dividing marital property, an equitable division is paramount to one party's interest in keeping the ranch intact. O'Connell v. O'Connell, 340 N.W.2d 700, 702 (S.D. 1983); Hanson v. Hanson, 252 N.W.2d 907 (S.D.1977).

Throughout the entire process, Eric emphasizes the importance of communication and negotiation. He understands that ranch divorces can be emotionally charged and seeks to facilitate productive discussions between the parties involved. By advocating for his clients' interests with empathy and expertise, Eric strives to achieve favorable outcomes that allow them to move forward with their lives while preserving their connection to the land and the ranching lifestyle they hold dear.

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