Ranking fourth among the states with the most farms, Georgia is home to 78,000 farms, which cover 34.2 million acres of land. Unfortunately, Georgia also sees many divorces. When farmers divorce, there are often animal issues involved. As technology continues to advance, more farmers will likely be left with the issue of not only how to address live animals but also genetic material including embryos, oocytes, and semen.
While it might be hard to believe, failure to properly arrange for how ownership of an animal will be handled after divorce or a person’s death can lead to substantial arguments.
It is important for divorcing families who live on farms to consider how animal issues will be handled. This article reviews these considerations based on several categories of animals.
Companion animals most often include cats and dogs, but can include more exotic animals, as well. In Georgia, 4-H or FFA projects are often not viewed by courts as important animals despite the strong attachment that many children feel toward them. Some couples arrange for pet visitation agreements after a divorce. In the most complex cases, pet visitation schedules can end up influencing parenting plans in a divorce.
While emotions about companion animals are often the strongest, in some cases, ownership of these animals can be used to bargain for other things that spouses want in a divorce.
Georgia courts treat livestock the same as any other type of property. This means that courts will begin an analysis of property division by deciding whether an animal is a marital or nonmarital property. Often, the ownership question will revolve around who paid for the animal.
Divorcing couples often inventory livestock including registered names, sex of the animal, registration name, branding/markings, and location of the livestock. In most cases, the value of the livestock must then be assessed.
Frozen materials, including embryos, eggs, and semen from animals, must be inventoried and valued. In some cases, divorcing families can agree on the value of the animal or the genetic material based on industry standards. In some cases, however, divorcing families cannot agree on these values.
In these situations, it might become necessary for the couple to retain a livestock professional who will help assess value.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer Today
One of the best first steps for divorcing couples to take is to write down a list of all their assets including farm animals and whether the item is viewed as a marital or non-marital asset. Another great step to take is to retain the assistance of an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Contact Vayman & Teitelbaum, P.C. today to schedule a free case evaluation.