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Melissa A. Featherston

Divorce and farm couples

Many Missouri families make their living in agriculture. Therefore, it's interesting to look at how farm families compare with the population as a whole in terms of divorce rates. They're really not so different. The same stresses that can tear apart any marriage can undermine a couple who makes their living farming.

A key factor is economic problems. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the mid-1980s farm crisis saw a rise in divorces among couples impacted by that from below the national average to about equal to it -- approximately 40 percent.

Now, about three decades later, the divorce rate in most states is down. Moreover, the divorce rate in agricultural states is lower than in other states. In a 2012 study that compared divorce rates among people in various professions based on the 2000 census, farmers and ranchers came in at 7.63 per 1,000 couples. The average for 500-plus professions studied was 10.34.

The factors that have been cited for the overall decline in the divorce rate in the past few decades apply to those who make their living in agriculture just as they do to the rest of the population. These include people getting married for the first time at an older age and more people living together prior to getting married.

Many young farm couples have a unique advantage in being more clear about what they intend to do with their lives than couples in other professions. This can lead to fewer surprises and contradictory goals down the road that can destroy a marriage. If they're both committed to the farm, like other couples that own businesses together, they may also have a stronger incentive to stay in the marriage. However, these are tough times economically for many agricultural families. This, as we noted, can strain a marriage to the breaking point.

For a married couple who owns a farm or ranch, divorce can be a complicated process with unique challenges when it comes to dividing up assets and property. It's essential to seek legal guidance from a Missouri family law attorney with experience in this area.

Source: Missouri Farmer Today, "Do farming and happy marriages go together?," Sep. 30, 2016

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