Taking the broader approach to rural divorce
With rural divorce sadly on the rise, it has become apparent that this category of divorce presents an entirely different set of challenges to those faced by city and suburb dwellers.
In contrast with city dwellers, who may be in receipt of a salary, or alternatively own a cash earning business, a farm is more a way of life with the farmer’s family forming an attachment to it. Therefore, selling the farm to achieve a divorce settlement means more than simply losing bricks and mortar.
Whilst many farms are rich in land, stock, machinery and buildings, they may be relatively poor in terms of cash flow. This means that it can be hard to raise sufficient monies for a divorced spouse to re-house herself and often the children, without selling land and effectively destroying the income. However, it is likely that one spouse will have supported the other in building the farm business, often working on the farm while raising children, and this, in turn, entitles that spouse to a fair settlement. In many cases farmers can feel that their very way of life is being threatened or even taken away from them, whilst the spouse feels resentment that the other party is being left with the business and an ‘idyllic’ life in the country, when they could be looking at the prospect of living in a council house in the city.
The Courts must value the farm in order to determine a fair settlement, looking at both sides, and ensure any children are treated fairly and decently, but often this is just the start of a lengthy healing process. Resentment can be an incredibly destructive emotion which is not helpful at such a stressful time, so emotional support and life counselling is essential. Rural divorce raises issues that go way beyond legislation and the letter of the law. In order to help the farm and family through the difficult aftermath of divorce, the parties, through their respective legal representatives, must rely upon a trusted network of independent financial advisers, life coaches and counsellors.
Ultimately, rural divorces often require more than simply a family law solicitor. A whole range of other professionals may be needed to unravel the intricacies of a farming home and business in an endeavour to achieve a just financial settlement for separating spouses and their children.
This article also appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times Saturday 23rd June 2018.
Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.