Family Law Blog

Can you keep the cattle? How the court views Bessie when your relationship breaks down

Posted by Karina Ralston on 16 Jun 2016

Assisted by Holly Pitt

In some instances of relationship breakdown, more than cash and property need to be divided. Animals or livestock can be a significant source of income for some parties, and can comprise a significant proportion of the asset pool.   

A divorce or relationship breakdown can be complicated and like any asset, when farming property and animals form part of the equation, the process becomes increasingly difficult. In circumstances where the Court is satisfied it is just and equitable to do so, the parties will be required to sell up the farm and all that goes with it.  

For example, in the case of Calder & Calder (2016) FLC 93-691, the Family Court considered an appeal and cross-appeal for the division of property in relation to a $13 million pool of assets. The parties were married for 34 years and operated a number of farming enterprises during the course of their relationship so, consequently, livestock comprised a significant portion of the property pool. 

On appeal, the wife disputed the way the court treated the livestock as an asset, asserting that the trial judge should have divided the livestock in specie and sought to keep them instead. Her appeal was dismissed, on the basis that the husband’s entitlement would not be satisfied if the asset - the livestock - wasn’t sold and divided between the parties.  

Valuing livestock may seem like an impossible task, but it is certainly a requirement under law to value your livestock as a part of determining your net income as a business (see our article on full and frank disclosure). You can choose to value your livestock at the initial cost of the livestock, market selling value or replacement value.

There are a variety of additional rules supplied by the Australian Taxation Office to govern this. These regulations include things like the natural increase in your livestock because of breeding, the use of livestock for personal purposes (such as a pet or killing livestock for personal consumption). Specialist provisions to valuation can apply for more specific livestock farming like beekeeping, oyster farming and certain horse breeding livestock.

If you have any question regarding how your property or livestock may be divided upon a relationship breakdown with your partner please contact: