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Rural family law cases involve a unique and complex mix of considerations that are typically not seen in other family law cases.

Although ‘rural cases’ are not separately defined in the Family Law Act, there is no doubt they require lawyers to have special skills and experience to handle them competently. Rural family law cases require knowledge of the various ownership structures (such as companies, partnerships and trusts entities), as well as/together with the various primary industries, agribusiness and rural valuation methodologies.


Rural Family Law Cases

Whilst many considerations unique to rural cases are of a financial nature, there are also a number of non-financial considerations that are of a more emotional and personal nature.

Examples of these personal considerations include: 

  • Multi-generational ownership of land and the emotional attachment to it;
  • Ownership being intertwined with other family members;
  • Preservation of heritage, standing within the community and a sense of belonging; and
  • Protecting a ‘way of life’ & ‘cultural identity’ vs. protecting an asset.

The financial considerations of rural family law cases also requires an in depth knowledge of the various assets that can be involved, the various methods used to value them (both individually and collectively) and agribusiness.

For example, rural family law cases involve the following financial considerations that requires lawyers to have particular experience in: 

  • Valuation of Livestock;
  • Valuation of crops in the ground and crops harvested;
  • Valuation of Water licences;
  • Valuation of plant and equipment;
  • The “asset rich, cash poor” nature of rural interests;
  • Agribusiness financing arrangements;
  • Sale of electricity to the grid; and
  • Issues involving mining licences.

Whilst many rural properties have a significant market value attributed to them, this does not always (in fact rarely) translate to the property having the capacity to remain viable if it were to pay out a significant sum to a spouse following separation.

Another unique consideration when dealing with rural cases relates to the fact that one parent will often want to relocate the children to another town, city or State following separation.

Relocation to another area following separation will often impact or have an impact one of the parent’s relationship with the children.  The ability for both parents to remain living within close proximity to the children following separation is less likely in regional areas than in cosmopolitan areas.  The primary reason for this being that regional areas often lack the population, employment opportunities, housing and services required to enable both parties to remain in the area and support themselves financially.  There are also obvious social issues in some instances following separation that makes it difficult for both parties to remain in the area.

It is important to seek advice from family lawyers who are experienced with rural cases to ensure relationships with children are not detrimentally affected following separation and that appropriate arrangements are implemented.