Farmers are often practical and stoic people. Things need to get done, you get up and do them. If the weather’s bad or your equipment breaks down, you adjust. You fix things and move on. Good planning and hard work will get you through most situations, but that doesn’t mean stress won’t take its toll.

Farms have often suffered in recent years. Throughout North Dakota, farmers have had to contend with bad weather, tough competition and economic uncertainty. But those things aren’t just hard on farmers; they’re hard on everyone who lives on the farm. And as Agweek notes, the divorce rate among farmers has risen sharply in the last few decades.

Divorce can put a farm at risk

One of the biggest challenges that Midwestern farmers may face in divorce is figuring out how to deal with the farm. The farmstead is regularly the most important asset in a farming divorce. While North Dakota courts recognize the importance of preserving the viability of the family farm, and the potential for economic hardship if the farm is not maintained, the farm is still considered a marital asset. In fact, all of the parties’ property and debts are considered part of the marital estate in a divorce, regardless of source, even if the farm has been part of your family for generations. In North Dakota, Courts must make an equitable distribution of the marital estate.

Are there options other than litigation?

Notably, an equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean a fifty-fifty split. An equitable distribution can weigh all kinds of factors, including:

· The duration of the marriage

· The respective ages of the parties

· Each spouse’s earning potential

· The conduct of each party during the marriage

· The parties’ station in life

· The circumstances and necessities of the parties

· The parties’ health and physical conditions

· The parties’ financial circumstances as shown by the property owned at the time; its value and income-producing capacity, if any

· Whether the property was accumulated or acquired before or after the marriage.

If divorcing couples bring their disputes to court, the court will assign its own weight to each of these factors and divide the couple’s assets as it sees fit. But the court won’t always agree with your assessment of an asset’s worth or the value of your contribution. You can often gain more control over the negotiations by taking them to mediation. If you’re both willing to compromise, you and your spouse may be able to reach a deal that allows you both to move fairly in your own directions-and may leave the farm intact. In addition, you can decide on a collaborative divorce. ( In a collaborative approach, the parties agree not to litigate their case. Instead, all of the parties and their lawyers’ resources and energies will be devoted to negotiations and settling their divorce amicably.

Every divorce is different

Just as no two people are the same, no two unions are alike. And that means every divorce is also unique. While mediation and collaborative divorces may lead to the best outcome in many divorces, it’s not always the best option. An experienced attorney can help you choose the best path forward, and farmers may want to work with attorneys who understand both farms and family law.