10 July 1998

Better deal for wives

WIVES who have invested capital as well as time in their husbands farming business can expect a much better deal if divorce ends the partnership, a recent settlement suggests.

"In the past, settlements have tended to be viewed on the basis of what the wife needs, while keeping the farm intact for the husband to continue," says John Smith, a partner of Tiverton-based Bevan Ashford.

A recent Court of Appeal ruling signifies a marked change. The original ruling in the case, White versus White, awarded the wife a lump sum of £800,000 out of assets of about £5m. On appeal, Mr Smith, who was acting for Mrs White, secured almost twice the amount, £1.5m, plus other assets she already held. That was despite the asset value falling to £4m by the time of the appeal.

Catherine Hallam, head of family law at Bristol-based Burges Salmon, welcomes the ruling. Court decisions have, at times, seemed discriminatory, she reckons.

"A wife who has been fully involved in a farming enterprise is now, as a result of this decision, much more likely to extract her capital on divorce, even if it brings about a break-up and sale of the farming enterprise." &#42