Divorce and the family farm | Family law

Farming families are particularly vulnerable to marriage breakdown. The reality of life on a family farm can be one of social isolation, hard physical work, unsocial hours and a, volatile industry beleaguered by perennial cash flow issues and burdensome regulation. This can lead to mental health issues including high levels of stress, depression, alcoholism and even suicide.

The court has a duty to meet the needs of the parties and dependent children but the reality is that there is often limited liquid capital unless the farm is sold.  Most farming businesses carry significant debt and have relatively poor incomes compared to the value of the capital assets (i.e. the land and property).

The court has to achieve fairness; but there is a very wide judicial discretion; as one Judge wryly observed, ‘fairness like beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’.  It seems only fair that inherited assets should remain in the family and pass from one generation to another, particularly where a farm has been in the same family for generations. However needs must be met.

Farming cases are recognised as being ‘excruciatingly difficult’ to resolve particularly where the farm represents not only a home but a business and primary income source often not only for the parties but also for several generations living and working on the land. It often represents a way of life and is core to the very identity of those that farm it.

These cases require particular expertise and very careful management. Identifying matrimonial and non matrimonial property is essential and in order to advise effectively a family lawyer often needs to investigate complex land ownership and business structures and work with other professionals to obtain expert valuation and tax advice.

Brexit, hard or soft, deal or no deal, is going to impact farming families with most suffering a loss of income from subsidies. Those businesses which are already struggling may well never recover. The impact on families, if this leads to a marriage breakdown, could be devastating. Early, practical, commercially focused advice, is absolutely essential.

If you require a confidential chat regarding a relationship breakdown or any aspects of planning for your future please contact Mercedes King-Jones, Family Law Director on 01905 730481 or email mking-jones@thursfields.co.uk

Thursfields’ Family Law Solicitors are available at any of our offices and surrounding areas – Birmingham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Solihull, and Halesowen.

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