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Young farmers want pre-nups

The Irish Farmers' Association has written to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter asking that pre-nuptial agreements be given legal status and be taken into account in divorce cases involving farms.

The farmer lobby group has outlined a draft agreement that could protect the family farm and prevent it being broken up into unviable smaller holdings in divorce proceedings.

Under the proposed agreement, a couple would complete an inventory of assets each person held before the marriage and agree that in the event of a divorce, each would be entitled to keep those original assets.

However, any new assets acquired during the course of the marriage, such as improvements or additions to the farm would be divided between the couple.

The attitude of farmers towards pre-nuptial agreements is likely to be overwhelmingly positive. When questioned in a Macra na Feirme survey, 80% of young farmers thought pre-nups should be recognised, while 34% said they would avail of one.

Offaly farmer Liam Guinan says most young farmers consider themselves custodians of the land rather than outright owners of it.

"It's about safeguarding and protecting the work of previous generations," he explains. "You think of the work that the people before you put into the farm and try to improve it during your time before passing it on."

However, the 29-year-old farmer admits he would be reluctant to broach the subject of a pre-nup with a girlfriend.

"It's not a conversation I would like to have because it's such a thorny issue," he says.

"But you're dealing with an asset and you could say pre-nups are essential from that point of view.

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"I would hope that I would know the person's character well enough to be sure the farm was safe," he adds.

"And anyway, I think girls know there are easier ways to make money than getting involved with a farmer!" he laughs.

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