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Farming divorce

They say farming is not simply a job but a way of life. It can also be demanding and stressful and, inevitably, this can put relationships under strain.

All family relationship breakdowns are upsetting, but when farming families are affected by divorce, the impact across the whole family can be particularly significant.

Many farming businesses stay in families for generations with multiple family members often having stakes in the enterprise, for example, through a family trust or partnership or a limited liability company. It’s also standard practice for farming families to transfer property and assets to the next generation of farmers to minimise liability for Inheritance Tax after death. These complex methods of ownership can make divorces in farming families extremely difficult to resolve.

Under English family law, marriage is a partnership and upon divorce, all money and property (including businesses and real property)  must be divided fairly. Unfortunately, in farming divorces, this can sometimes result in the breaking up of the business and sale of land.

At Harrowells, our farming divorce solicitors have specific experience of advising clients in divorce matters involving farming businesses, property, and other assets. Although cases involving farms tend to be more complex than your everyday divorce, we have a strong track record for helping couples come to amicable divorce settlements based on cooperation and mutual agreement.

We are keen to look at methods to help you avoid going to court but will take that robust step if that means getting the best outcome for our clients.

For more information from our farming divorce solicitors, please get in touch with your local Harrowells branch in York, Clifton Moor, Haxby, Easingwold, Thirsk (and Northallerton), Malton or Pocklington, or fill in our online enquiry form.

To secure a team who will fight your corner and represent your interests, make a confidential call or email enquiry to our specialist team.

Our farming divorce solicitors’ relevant experience

As a practice that has served the farming community across North and East Yorkshire over many years, we understand all of the unusual aspects that can arise in respect of complex land holdings such as having limited documentation proving land and asset ownership/business arrangements and dealing with family and partnership issues.

Our goal is to help you reach a divorce settlement which preserves your farming business while providing for the needs of both parties and any children.

We can also advise in relation to pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements for couples looking to formally set out how the farm business and assets will be arranged in the event you choose to divorce in the future. This is often the best and the only way to protect the farm.

Farming divorce first steps

The first step will be to gather all available information about the farm, preferably including a map with boundary markers, details of ownership and any mortgages, and information about the business such as accounts and a list of what assets it owns.

Divorcing couples should always be completely honest and open with each other about their financial resources and needs, if you are not this can undermine any settlement reached if you are later found to have been dishonest. We can provide support and assistance to help you collect all this information, including obtaining Land Registry documentation and liaising with mortgage lenders if necessary.

How does the court deal with farming divorces?

The majority of divorces can be arranged without having to go to court for independent judgment. However, it is vital to understand the law on divorce even when coming to an agreement out of court because the same principles apply.

In all divorce cases, a fair division of assets does not necessarily mean an equal division. When deciding how to divide matrimonial property and assets, the court’s starting point (depending on the length of the marriage) will be a 50-50 split but must then take into account whether a disproportionate split would be fair, taking into account the following:

  • The needs of any children
  • The parties’ financial resources and income/earning capacity
  • The financial needs of both parties
  • The parties’ ages and the length of the relationship
  • The standard of living enjoyed before the relationship breakdown
  • Any mental or physically disability
  • The contributions made by either party to the marriage (including non-financial contributions)
  • The conduct of either party (but only if it’s so unreasonable that it cannot be disregarded)

It is therefore not a given that the farm will have to be sold or divided. Generally, judges will be reluctant to threaten a business by ordering it be split up, however they must find a solution where the needs of both spouses and their children must be met.

If the farm is owned through their family with stakes being shared between family members such as parents and siblings, the court will be reluctant to impact the livelihood of third parties.

Ultimately, the effect of divorce on the farm will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Our farming divorce solicitors can provide a professional insight into your particular situation and offer clear, realistic advice on the options available and the likely outcome.

Why choose Harrowells’ farming divorce solicitors?

Our expertise in both Family Law and Agricultural Law is independently recognised by The Legal 500 which assesses the reputation and quality of legal advice of leading UK law firms.

We’ve been awarded the Law Society Lexcel Accreditation, the legal practice quality mark for firms which lead the way in providing excellent client care and legal practice management. This means we consistently deliver positive results within a framework of efficient, cost-effective, flexible, and reliable practices.

With our network of offices across North and East Yorkshire, we can arrange to meet at a location convenient to you.

Get in touch with our farming divorce solicitors today

We have locations in York St Saviourgate, Clifton Moor, Haxby, Easingwold, Thirk (and Northallerton), Malton and Pocklington.