Posted by Lucy Theobald on 9th October 2023
Last updated 12th December 2023
How are farms dealt with in a divorce?

Director Lucy Theobald explains the complexities surrounding the breakdown of a farming marriage.

If the worst were to happen and your marriage hits troubled times, you should of course seek legal advice.  When a relationship ends in a farming family the stakes can be even higher involving not just emotional but also financial and operational complexities.  Making specialist legal support even more crucial.

Unlike traditional marriages that primarily involve two people, a farming marriage is more intricate. The relationship often extends to multiple generations of a family. As a result, divorce doesn’t just signify the end of a relationship between two people; it could conceivably disrupt an entire way of life.

Determining who owns the various types of assets like land, machinery, and livestock is a critical first step. Farming families often have complex business structures, including trusts, and it’s common for multiple generations to live and work on the same farm. Understanding the ownership and control of these assets is vital as courts are reluctant to disrupt third-party assets and livelihoods.

Communication in any divorce plays a pivotal role. Both parties must be open and honest about assets and business operations. This openness should be demonstrated through full and frank financial disclosure from the beginning. The court will look for the most practical solution that meets everyone’s needs, considering not only the divorcing couple but also other family members involved in the farm.

Due to the intricacy of farming operations, various assets may need valuation, including land, machinery, and potentially even livestock. Accountants play an essential role here, especially since there could be significant tax consequences upon separation, asset division, or sale.  Our specialist divorce lawyers work closely with our network of professionals such as financial advisors who have experience with the complexities of farming divorce.

The court will always look at what is fair. When it comes to settlements, ‘fair’ does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split of assets. Courts will not want to jeopardize the farm’s viability, especially when it’s the primary source of income for the family. Other considerations like where other family members live and the farm’s operational needs will influence decisions.

Given the high complexity of farming divorces, costs can escalate quickly. Early and full disclosure, along with the prompt involvement of professionals, can mitigate these costs. Another way to minimize legal costs and stress is by initiating constructive dialogue with your spouse as early as possible.

Divorce doesn’t necessarily mean going to court. Mediation or arbitration can serve as viable alternatives. They offer a neutral setting where both parties can negotiate financial matters effectively. These methods often lead to more amicable settlements and significantly reduce legal costs and emotional stress.

At The Family Law Company, we understand the unique challenges farming divorces present. As one of the largest specialist family law firms in the South West we act for over 2000 clients each year, providing expert advice and compassionate service for those going through divorce.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Lucy Theobald is a Solicitor at The Family Law Company. She brings 20 years of experience in family law, now specialising in Divorce and Finance, Private Law Children and Domestic Abuse. She was previously President of the Cornwall Law Society and has been named in the top 50 Most Inspirational Women in Cornwall.

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