Divorce Lawyer Ipswich – Detail is key when farmers divorce

Nicola Furmston Cropped

Farms and farming assets merit special attention to detail on divorce as the factors related to them are different to most other businesses. Usually the husband and wife are living at the hub of the operation, very often in the farmhouse, which may include the farm office.  If not, the farm office is close by and may be surrounded by the farm buildings, used for storage of equipment, grain or livestock. Selling the farmhouse may be inconceivable and cessation of occupation by the farmer may prove a problem tax-wise. The farmhouse, which may be worth a considerable sum, is often the subject of great emotional attachment, and many have been in a single family.

The living standard of the farmer can give rise to the impression the marriage is a wealthy one and merit a concerted attack on the assets by the outgoing spouse. Large houses, smart cars and private schooling are staples of farming life but a sustained low level of return on capital assets can prove difficult when it comes to raising finance to pay out the outgoing spouse’s entitlement. The court must put the needs of the children first and this includes allocating resources from the available assets to house them. If the children are to remain with the outgoing spouse capital for a property must be found, bearing in mind their standard of living so far, but the spouse’s capital claims will not necessarily be limited to the money required to purchase a house. If the marriage is of a reasonable length the spouse can have a legitimate expectation of receiving 50% of the assets.

All this makes it critical that valuation of land and farming businesses on divorce is treated with proper understanding of the special issues that arise.  Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies give security of tenure, which usually depreciates the value of land considerably. From the outgoing spouse’s point of view attention should be given to the potential for housing development, mineral exploitation, and solar panel and wind farm installations, all of which will generate funds.

Farms can be sizeable commercial enterprises and require the attention of specialist divorce lawyers to ensure that their assets and potential are neither over-stated nor under-valued.

Nicola Furmston is a divorce lawyer specialising in agricultural enterprises at Barker GoteleeSolicitors in Ipswich

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