Divorce and the Family Horse Farm: who gets what?

I've joked that I would make a terrible divorce attorney- not only am I happily married, but my inherent nature to mediate a dispute would cause me to encourage my clients to spend just a little more time in counseling together rather than going to divorce court.  However, with such a high divorce rate in the U.S., I know that divorce is a reality that often requires legal assistance.

California is a community property state, along with Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.  If you are not from these select jurisdictions, the concept of community property can be a bit strange.  
In essence, the community property principle assumes that all assets acquired during the marriage are presumptively community property, unless one spouse makes a showing of a separate agreement (like a pre-nuptial).

As with most areas of law, there are of course a number of exceptions and misconceptions.  I can't share them all with you in one blog post, but I would like to give you just one example of how Marriage, Divorce, and Community Property are a part of the equine community.

Hank and Wynona (Husband and Wife respectively) own a ranch in California (as community property), but title to the ranch is in Hank's name ONLY.  Hank then decides to sell the ranch to Bob, and tells Bob that he is single.  Wynona learns of the sale about 10 months later.  She demands that Bob reconvey the property back to Hank and Wynona, and she offers to refund the purchase price.
     Can Wynona legally VOID the transfer?
    The law requires that for conveyances of community property real property (i.e., the sale of a ranch), there must be joinder of both spouses, though Wynona must take action to recover the property within a one-year statute of limitations.
If she does so, then too bad for Bob, even if he was an innocent purchaser; he has no rights to the ranch!
Now, if Bob KNEW, or should have known that Hank was in fact married and not single, then there is no statute of limitations for Wynona to render the transaction void.

 A little tidbit for you readers not living in a community property state- watch out if you move to California and subsequently divorce!

      Let's say Hank and Wynona were married in Kentucky, a non-community property state, and lived there happily married for 10 years on a horse farm.  Hank earns a salary from training yearlings, and Wynona is not employed.  Hank then receives a job opportunity to train yearlings at Santa Anita race track in California, so the two of them move to the sunny state, but they do not sell their Kentucky farm.
     Unfortunately, the glitz and glamor of racing in Southern California crumbles their marriage and they file for divorce in the state.

Dilemma: their farm is in Kentucky, a non-community property state, but they are filing for divorce in California, a community property state- what is the court to do?!

For the purposes of divorce, the farm back in Kentucky is considered "foreign real property" and is treated as quasi- community property, and is subject to a 50-50 division.  The California court could choose to:
1. Award the Kentucky farm to Hank and give other assets of equal value to Wynona, OR
2. Require Hank to sign any conveyances that are necessary (force him to buy out Wynona for half the farm value, or sell the farm and give Wynona her 50% interest).

And of course, in a divorce horses will be treated as personal property, not like children/dependents- so no "horse-support" after divorce if you get to keep them, and even worse, you could be forced to sell your horses to divide the community property interest 50-50.

There are possible ways to protect your separate property interests in a horse ranch, or retain a horse as separate personal property and not community property in a divorce, but it does require some skillful legal work ahead of time!

Sorry for the minimal posting, but the bar studying takes precedence.  If you follow my facebook page there are more frequent postings of various news stories, such as:

The video of a blind horse being rescued from a swimming pool after he fell in (prevent liability, prevent injury, safely secure your horses!) 

And other little snippets and photos from my equine life!

Happy SUMMER, and Happy RIDING!