We Own Land Together, Can We Split It In the Divorce?
Uncontested Divorce Mediation
Posted July 19, 2023
Colorado is a great place to own land. There are fantastic recreational lots and cozy mountainsides to the West and wide tracts of good, flat farmland to the East. During your marriage, couples often purchase a house together, but they may also purchase spacious land. Acreage is a valuable resource, as farmland, parkland, recreational space, and of course, as an investment. If you bought a large tract of land together, what happens if one or both of you want to keep the acreage and all the outdoor enjoyment you get from it?
Can you split land in a divorce? Yes, if you’re careful and the land is zoned for subdivision.
How Do You Split a Piece of Property
Splitting property is what we do best, here at Split Simple. But normally, we mean property like your house, car, furniture, art collection, and expensive wardrobe. In most Denver divorce mediation sessions, the house is the only thing that can’t be easily split, and most couples opt to sell the house unless they decide to co-parent any children there for stability.
Splitting property in terms of land, however, is a little more complicated – but doable. Splitting land that you own jointly will require subdivision and reassignment of ownership for both halves of the land you have split. This requires zoning considerations, a visit from a surveyor, and plenty of paperwork. In most cases, rural land can be split into two parcels, as long as both parcels have road access – and utilities if applicable.
How to Divide Marital Land Into Two Parcels
Let’s talk about subdivision. This isn’t arithmetic and it doesn’t necessarily relate to the suburbs. Subdivision is the official term for dividing a piece of land, or sub-dividing it, as the case may be.
To subdivide your land, first you will need to make sure that it is zoned for a subdivision. Some properties have special rules and, closer to cities, subdivision may not be permitted in certain zoned areas or with lots that are already quite small. But let’s stick with our main idea that you have some rural or recreational land that is mostly unbuilt, and probably not very tightly zoned.
Every subdivision must have road access, or its use will be extremely limited and impossible to sell. This needs to be real road access with roads of regulation size and quality. Running a gravel track to the back half of your property is a classic mistake that will lead to impossible building codes. Which takes us to the next point.
Building Code Viability
When you subdivide land, it’s value is based – in part – on whether building permits can be issued for the land. Land that is too steep, rocky, unstable, or does not have sufficient road access will not be issued a building permit. Keep this in mind, especially if you are subdividing to build up or to sell the property.
Subdivision and “Taking the House”
Subdividing a large piece of property with the family homestead on it is a complicated way for one spouse to “keep the house” while giving the other spouse some amount of the land to keep or sell. Interestingly, if you really want to hold onto the house and have a large road-accessible property, giving a large portion of the acreage (and even valuable out-buildings) to the other spouse can count as a fair split of marital assets in the Denver divorce mediation process – provided the assayed values on each side all shake out.
The spouse who wants to keep the house can stay in the house and keep it’s patch of road access while giving the valuable acreage of land to the other.
Alternately, if a divorcing pair decides to sell the house – but one spouse want to keep their favorite recreational land – the subdividing the house off the property is an interesting option where the proceeds from the home sale can allow more fine-tuning of your financial split.
Living as Neighbors or Selling One Half
Why would a divorcing couple split their land? Often, the answer is that one spouse wants to stay on the land and the other wants to sell -and there’s enough land to do both. But sometimes, both spouses want to stay – and want to keep their land – and there’s enough land to do both. Large, mostly unused acreage kept for recreational parkland or grazing pastures for livestock (rather than cultivated fields) can be split.
With acreage large enough and plenty of trees or elevation changes, you can even have two separate houses on neighboring land and never see one another.
It’s important to consider what happens after you sub-divide your marital property. Most who choose to stay will find it easy to deal with new neighbors in the split-off land, but spouses who both plan to stay should also plan to be amicable neighbors – perhaps even neighboring co-parents – until one or both decides to move on.
Neighboring co-parents on split property will find it easier to hot-swap parenting. Hot-swapping is a new method of co-parenting that provides exceptional stability for children by keeping the kids at home while the parents take turns in the house.
Split Simple Can Help You Split Marital Land in Your Divorce
Can you split a large property when you get divorced? In most cases, yes. Colorado allows for subdivision of property, especially large properties outside the city, as long as zoning, road access, and building permit potential are all considered. If you have a large property with your spouse and wish to split it between you, Split Simple can help.
This is an unusual way for spouses to split property, but with a little legal footwork and a surveyor to draw the lines, it can be done. A Split Simple divorce mediator can help you determine the right steps to subdivide the property and assign ownership separately as part of your divorce agreement and fair separation of assets.
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