The divorce overhaul and protecting your farm assets

Everybody hopes their marriage or partnership will last forever – but divorce is on the rise in the South West, and proposed changes to the law could make it easier to bring a divorce about.

This means that, while no one wants to put a dampener on the romantic mood, it really is worth considering putting various protections in place, especially when there are family-owned assets such as a farming business or land which have been passed down the generations.

Figures show that couples in the South West are going against a national trend, with an increase in the number seeking divorces. There was a 16 per cent rise in the first four months of 2018, when compared to 2017 - this equates to an extra 1,200 divorces across the region in the past year.

Meanwhile, changes to divorce law could have far-reaching effects. These would involve the introduction of a concept of ‘no fault’ divorce. At present, a divorce must involve one party blaming the other (and proving it) on the grounds of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion.

But if government proposals are agreed – and they generally have wide backing – then neither party would have to prove anything. Simply wanting a divorce would be sufficient.

This would make it much easier to get divorced. It would also mean that divorces could happen earlier, because at present couples have to live separately for two years if no blame can be proven. Even then, if one party doesn’t agree to the split then couples have to live apart for five years before they can divorce.

Given all of these factors, it really is advisable to think about putting some protections in place, especially for farmland that has been passed down through generations of a family and businesses where third parties are involved. Nowadays, more and more people are doing just that, in the form of prenuptial agreements (before marrying), cohabitation agreements (for those not actually marrying) or sometimes postnuptial agreements (if already married).

Although not strictly speaking legally binding, the court will give considerable weight to such agreements if they are in place.

In the best-case scenario, the agreement may never be needed and in the worst-case scenario it may save you the emotional and financial drain of contested Court proceedings.

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Victoria Strode, Head of Family at Mogers Drewett

Victoria Strode, Head of Family at Mogers Drewett