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Are farming divorces settled the same way as typical divorces?

Agricultural and Rural Family Matters

Dealing with the practical and financial arrangements of a divorce can be challenging, and when a farm is involved this can further complicate matters.

How does a farming divorce differ from a typical divorce?

In a typical divorce, separating couples are entitled to make a claim on the income, property, pensions and any business owned by either party, however, this becomes more complex when a family farm is involved.

When divorce proceedings begin, both spouses will be required to present documentary evidence of their assets, incomes and liabilities. Due to the diverse ownership of farms, valuing farming assets can be a complicated process and expert advice is needed. Common problems include the farm being inherited making it a non-matrimonial asset, partnerships or wider family ownership, trusts, tenancies, and corporate ownership.

Is the farm a matrimonial or non-matrimonial asset?

When deciding how assets are to be divided in a farming divorce, it is essential to understand which assets are matrimonial and which are non-matrimonial. Matrimonial assets are those that are acquired during the course of the marriage and non-matrimonial assets are those that are acquired before or outside of marriage.

As farms are often inherited, they may be considered a non-matrimonial asset, dependent upon the timing of inheritance, however, this does not always mean they are protected from division upon divorce. This will depend on the settlement agreed and whether there are enough matrimonial assets to satisfy the needs of both parties on divorce, if not, non-matrimonial assets will need to be considered.

What can I do when multiple family members own the farm?

Farming divorces can be a complex process especially when the entire farming enterprise is owned by multiple family members, as it can be difficult to identify who owns what.

In these situations, other family members may need to be involved in the divorce proceedings, so they are able to put forward their concerns about the impact of any financial order made.

Settling out of court

Often people assume that a divorce can only be settled in Court however there are other methods available such as mediation, round table meetings, and using the Collaborative law approach.

The Collaborative Law approach is an alternative to the traditional divorce process in which the separating couples and their lawyers, agree in writing that they will try and reach a reasonable settlement without going to court. This process includes having face-to-face meetings to discuss any concerns and issues in order to come to a mutual agreement.

The benefits of the Collaborative Law route are that the matter progresses at the pace the parties want, and legal costs can be reduced for both parties due to the elimination of court proceedings. This process also provides more privacy and flexibility for separating couples. Additionally, the divorcing couple may also feel they have more control of their situation, as both parties are given the opportunity to discuss things between themselves rather than having to wait for updates from their lawyers.

Once both parties have reached an agreement, this can be ratified by the court in the form of a Consent Court Order. However, if an agreement cannot be reached then an application to the court for a Financial Order would most likely follow.

Pre-nuptial Agreements

One of the ways couples can prevent having a messy and complex divorce is by putting a Pre-Nuptial Agreement in place. The agreement will set out how the assets will be divided if a marriage ends.  This is particularly useful in farming cases where the divorce will have an impact on multiple people. Additionally, you will have the option of putting assets in a trust for future generations.

How we can help

Farming and rural families experiencing relationship breakdowns often require specialist legal advisors who understand the implications for farming businesses. Our family lawyers can advise on dealing with a separation and on the division of farming assets. We handle all family law cases with empathy, clarity and in the best interests of our client.

We offer a fixed fee appointment to discuss your case and to find out what your options are before you decide whether to take further action.

For more information, get in touch with the team for a trusted, confidential chat.

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