* Marry someone in the same economic class. A couple with the same monetary expectations will find it easier to work through difficulties.
* During courtship, use your brain. After marriage, use your heart. This often gets turned around..
This all sounds very analytical and unromantic. But it'll greatly reduce the risk that you'll need that prenuptial agreement – that you should also get.
George Mueller (dairy farmer from Clifton Springs, N.Y.): My first suggestion is that future farm partners work off the farm for a significant period – three years is optimum.
Next, don't give them too much ownership in the beginning. Expect them to work hard, save money and earn their way into the partnership.
At Willow Bend, we pay a good wage to next-generation partners. But their share of the business is limited to how many shares (capital account) they've been able to purchase with their savings (and gifts from their parents.
Go slow in turning over ownership. Limit your gifting to your own children, and the threat of a damaging divorce settlement should be minimal.
Glenn Rogers (University of Vermont Extension professor emeritus and ag consultant): Ideally, you'd have a pre-nuptial agreement in place well in advance of the marriage. It doesn't happen often, even though 50% of first marriages and roughly 70% of second and third marriages end in divorce.
A post-nuptial agreement is another preventive. They aren't universally accepted in all states. And like pre-nuptials, they can be challenged and invalidated.
You also need to know if your state is a community-property state or an equitable-distribution state. So it's imperative that you seek qualified legal help.
Partnership, limited liability corporation and corporation shareholder agreements probably can help. They must include language such as prohibiting sale of shares without the approval of other shareholders or a waiver of right to claim ownership in the business.
Your strategy should also involve estate planning, as many ag businesses survive from one generation to the next. Divorces happen, and can impact your operation's financial stability. So do lots of talking, thinking and long-range planning.
Panelists' full responses will be in July's American Agriculturist issue. Got a question of your own? Send it to "Profit Planners," American Agriculturist, 5227B Baltimore Pike, Littlestown, PA 17340. Or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All are submitted to our panel without identification.