Divorce in a farming family can have devastating consequences if not approached skilfully. The farm is not only a business but a home and a way of life.

Farms tend to be capital rich, with substantial value tied up in buildings and land, yet income poor. This provides its own challenges and there can be added complications, with ownership being shared with parents and siblings meaning that it can be difficult to sell or raise capital as their interests must be considered. Frequently, farms can be passed down through generations and so can be treated by the courts as non-matrimonial assets and hence not shared equally.

The aim is to achieve a solution which provides a home for both parties and any children without affecting the core viability of the farm. This requires a careful and creative approach, looking at issues such as liquidity and reasonable needs.

An agreed outcome is always best and alternative dispute resolution, such as the collaborative law process can work well. This is where the parties and their respective solicitors sign an agreement committing to resolving the outstanding issues by a series of meetings, which maximises the chances of an amicable outcome and allows for greater flexibility as experts such as valuers, accountants and farming consultants can participate in the process.

The difficulties created by a potential divorce can result in reluctance to pass farming assets on and entering into a prenuptial agreement before marriage can protect those assets. Although not automatically binding on the courts, recent case law has shown that they will carry decisive weight if dealt with correctly.