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Schnell v. Schnell

North Dakota Supreme Court
346 N.W.2d 713 (1984)


Joan Schnell (defendant) was married to Robert Schnell (plaintiff), and they owned a ranch of approximately 4,400 acres as tenants in common. Following their divorce, Robert petitioned the court to sell the property and divide the proceeds. Joan asserted that the property should be divided, or partitioned in kind. The property had been developed as a model ranch, which meant that the buildings, pastures, and machinery were planned to maximize the efficiency of its operations. There were three homes on the property. Joan lived in the main home, and Robert lived in the second home, which was constructed after the divorce. One of the ranch workers lived in the third home. If the property were sold, Robert planned to purchase it and continue operations as a ranch. Robert was a successful auctioneer and was a member of a partnership that leased ranch land in Montana and South Dakota. Joan was employed with the United States Department of Agriculture. Joan spent most of her adult life raising her family, developing and supervising the ranch, and learning the ranch business. Joan’s financial worth is based almost exclusively on her interest in the ranch. Robert received significant income from his auctioneering duties. Joan has also offered to lease her portion of the property back to Robert, if the ranch were divided instead of sold. The trial court determined that the value of each cotenant’s share from a partition would be substantially less than the money each would receive from a sale of the whole. The trial court also determined that dividing the property would destroy the efficiency and balance that had been planned when the ranch was developed. Joan appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sand, J.)

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