Divorce and the farm

The impact of a divorce on a farming business can be catastrophic. On divorce, the courts are able to transfer or sell farmland, distribute business assets or transfer shares between the couple involved. Such cases require highly skilled and experienced lawyers.

Finding viable solutions for farms on divorce

When there is a divorce, farming cases are uniquely difficult. Claims against farms can be damaging to their short and long term viability, and the commercial realities of farming today mean that the retention and acquisition of land is critical.

Dealing with such cases involves a myriad of finely balanced judgements, and negotiating a successful outcome requires a clear-headed and commercial approach from your legal team. This is an area where experience counts, and we have one of the most skilled farming practices in the legal profession.

As businesses, farms often involve complex structures:

  • Partnership or corporate arrangements 
  • Trust arrangements 
  • Specialised agricultural tenancies 
  • Contracting arrangements 
  • Wider family ownership

Our family lawyers understand these structures and can use them creatively, either in protecting a family’s wealth, or in finding creative solutions to avoid a business being destroyed.

Thinking ahead and planning for future generations can often be a key part of resolving divorce cases. Our family and divorce solicitors also call upon our experts in other areas of law such as trust and tax, farming and rural conveyancing, corporate and partnership law, and agricultural tenancies to help us achieve a successful outcome to any case.

Our family and divorce lawyers

  • All 29 solicitors within our national family law team have expertise in dealing with businesses, trusts and particularly farms. 
  • We have a unique practice nationally in dealing with farms, farming businesses, rural conveyancing, landed estates, trusts and capital taxes.

Our experience

We have in-depth experience working with farming divorces. Examples include: 

Acting on behalf of a farmer, in partnership with other members of his family, in successfully negotiating a clean break settlement for his wife. The settlement enabled the family to remain on good terms and did not damage the viability of the business. It ensured that the wealth ultimately returned to the family, to ensure the long term viability of the farm for the next generation 

Helping the trustees of a large landed estate and farm, where one of the beneficiaries was divorcing. The case was resolved, through our intervention within the divorce, and a solution was found which pre-empted the legal fees in the High Court doubling, and protected both the trust’s and the business’ interests. 

Acting for the life tenant of a substantial landed estate and owner of a complex corporate structure. The case involved assets worth approximately £50 million, and centred on arguments around what were “matrimonial assets” and what were “non-matrimonial assets”. 

Acting for the wife in a family farming business. Considerable complications arose around potential development value of land, together with health problems. 

Working in a complex dispute involving extensive farmland, a substantial family home and large business. The valuation exercise was complicated by historic remains. The matter was concluded by agreement and resulted in a favourable clean break settlement for the farming family who retained the business and the property.

Our clients

We help a wide range of clients. Some examples include:

  • Either a farmer who has inherited his or her business together with the land, or a spouse who wishes to carve wealth out of the farm and its business 
  • Beneficiaries of trusts that own farmland or shares in farming businesses 
  • Family and professional trustees involved in farms and farming businesses 
  • Increasingly, we are also asked to help farming families with pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements.

What our clients and others say about us

Our family solicitors are regarded nationally as market leaders. We are highly rated in both Chambers UK and Legal 500 directories, following independent research. Comments about our family lawyers from clients and peers include:

“simply superb at managing clients’ expectations” Legal 500

“gets good results in complex farming cases” Legal 500

“This firm has enormous strength in family law across the UK ... the team draws upon the firm’s notable specialists in other practice areas, which is of benefit to clients seeking advice on property, agriculture and tax matters connected with family law.” Chambers UK

 “…sources say ‘when the team is involved in a case you know that it will be dealt with effectively and expeditiously, and that the client will be well looked after.’” Chambers UK

Legal resources you may find useful

  • Divorce.co.uk: your business answers a number of FAQs about businesses generally, which are relevant to farming cases.
  • Divorce and the Farm, written by partner Nick Stone and consultant William Barr, is published by Morrow & Co: this is a unique book written by one of the national team and available to our clients.
  • Family Law Hub – this is a groundbreaking knowhow base available for subscription online. It contains Mills & Reeve’s knowhow and legal research, together with video content on legal topics.