Dealing with a divorce is stressful enough but when farmers divorce there are usually additional considerations. It is not uncommon for both spouses to work on the farm, for their matrimonial home to be on the farm, for wider family members to work or live on the farm and for long working hours to be necessary, particularly at harvest time.
The family court always has to deal with dividing “one pot” into two directions but this is often more complex with a family farm. The court will take into account inherited wealth, with arguments being made about “non-matrimonial property”. The court looks to achieve fairness, sharing and meeting the spouses’ needs, with the first consideration given to the welfare of any children.
A formal valuation of the farming business and assets may be needed, looking at issues such as liquidity to see if any monies can be raised to buy out the other spouse. If this is not feasible the court may have to order a sale of part or the entire farm. Given that any sale would likely curtail one or both spouses’ livelihoods this is usually a last resort.
Given the complex and sensitive issues which can arise on a farming divorce it is advisable to try to resolve matters in as constructive and creative a forum as possible. I am both a family law mediator and collaborative lawyer. Both the mediation and collaborative process offer an option to sit round the table with the help and expertise you both require to facilitate financial disclosure and negotiations. The aim for all involved is to help you both reach an agreement which the court can then approve without the need for a stressful, expensive and risky court battle.