The damaging effects of divorce are often felt more acutely in cases involving farming families: especially so where the farm has been held within one family for generations.
Often farming businesses will involve Partnership or Corporate Structures, land may be co-owned with extended family, land ownership may be within or outside of business structures and various land or property assets may also be held in Trust. These can all complicate matters.
Typical questions that arise are:
- How can the assets be divided fairly where a farm has been passed dynastically to one spouse through the generations?
- What weight will the court apply to the financial and non-financial contributions of the non-owning spouse?
- Will the court force a sale or transfer of land and property?
The court’s approach can be unlike other cases and present unique challenges.
The court is tasked with arriving at a fair outcome and must meet the parties’ (and any dependent children’s) reasonable needs. In doing so the court will consider whether the farming family intended that the farm should be passed down through the generations.
The court will have to consider whether the farming family can and should retain the farm (in so as far as that is possible) even if that means an overall unequal division of assets. Numerous other factors including the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage can also be taken into account.
Funding a settlement may require finance to be raised against the retained farm. Land may need to be sold in order to retain the majority of the farm to pass on to future generations.
Many farming businesses experience cash flow and liquidity issues which can make it difficult (or impossible) for income generated from the farm to satisfactorily meet the needs of two separate households following separation.
Divorces involving family farms are often complex and it is important that if you find yourself in this position you seek the assistance of a lawyer experienced in this area.
Melanie, a solicitor with Greene & Greene Solicitors, advises in relation to a full range of family matters including divorce and associated financial matters, cohabitation disputes, children matters and Pre-Nuptial Agreements.
She is a collaboratively trained lawyer and member of Resolution – First for Family Law. She has significant experience in relation to resolving complex financial disputes often involving business assets and a considerable amount of my practice consists of negotiating and preparing Nuptial Agreements.
(Editorial first published in Rural Review, September 2016)