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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 18 April, 2014

Could pre-nups help Ireland’s young farmers?

With divorce came the fear that farms could be could be broken up, along with a marriage.

Darragh McCullough with William and Mairead
Darragh McCullough with William and Mairead

PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS could help young farmers take control of the family land at an earlier age, RTÉ agricultural show Ear to the Ground will hear tonight.

The show’s presenter Darragh McCullough discovered that there is a growing fear among older people across Ireland that their farms could be split if their sons and daughters’ marriages break down.

The concerns about having to split up farms have increased since divorce was introduced to the country, which has led to many farmers not to pass down the land as would have happened previously.

It is a widespread problem, much discussed, that land in Ireland is not being passed on to younger generations as readily as it was in the past, leaving young farmers in limbo.

Many families now have to wait until parents die to inherit the farm, meaning lands are being managed my much older men and women.

“It’s the same as any other business,” explains farmer William Holohan. “If you owned a company, it’s half the income coming in to what they are used to.”

He believes pre-nuptial agreements could be the answer for farming families facing the dilemma.

“If pre-nups are there, it would increase the transfer of land to younger farmers, to the younger generation who want to get working. But there is the fear that would be in the back of parents’s mind.

The world is evolving and this is an evolving step. It is just a safeguard situation for all people out there. We have to move with the times. We can’t stay in the Stone Age.

The Kilkenny man is about to wed his fiancée Mairéad Whitty and the pair have arranged for a pre-nuptial agreement.

“It is associated with what you see in the films…but it is very serious for our generation…because the fact is that there is marital breakdown and separations,” she tells McCullough.

“Years ago, the woman was nearly offered with a dowry. And she was taken with that dowry. But a woman coming into a marriage now, she’s probably maybe in her late-20s, early-30s. She is educated, a career, and has an asset or two of her own. She wants to protect those as much as a farmer’s son wants to protect his farms.

“If there was something there that was legally enforced, it might aid accession where the younger farmer might be able to take over the farm earlier instead of waiting until he is a mature man where, perhaps, a bereavement occurs in the family.”

Currently, judges have discretion on whether to recognise pre-nuptial agreements in Ireland. They are not banned but they are not automatically recognised either.

Earlier this year, the Justice Minister said his department will consider the legal position of the arrangements as part of legal reforms.

Ear to the Ground will be shown on RTÉ One tonight at 8.30pm.

Poll: Do you think prenuptial agreements should be legal in Ireland?

Related: Laws recognising prenups to be considered by Government

Aaron McKenna: Marriage is nothing more than a contract – bring on the prenups

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