No one is really happy about getting a divorce but it is a fact of modern day American life. Currently, about 41% of first marriages end in divorce. That rate climbs to nearly 60% for second marriages and then gets all the way to 73% for third marriages. The divorce rate for doctors is much lower. For first marriages, it stands right now at about 25%. That is of little comfort for physicians going through one.
When considering a divorce for physicians, there are some things that need to be gone over with family divorce lawyers. If there is a private medical practice in the picture, its fate may not be clear at the outset and will depend heavily on where the couple lives. If the couple lives in a community property state and the practice is considered to be a marital asset, an expert in the divorce for physicians should be consulted. There are some states where it will not matter as the practice may not be seen as either and may be off limits for discussion.
When did the practice start? Was the couple already married?
If you were running your practice when you met your spouse, it should be off the table unless you actually legally put in their name at some point. In these instances, it is not considered to be a marital asset and your soon be ex-spouse should have no claim on it. If you started it while you were married, it may be in play depending on the circumstances and situation surrounding its start and again, where you live.
In the United States, there are nine states that require a straight 50-50 asset split when a marriage is dissolved.. This is inclusive of all “marital assets,” which are any acquired during the marriage. This may include the entire practice but can also mean any increase in value of the practice during the marriage. A good family law attorney can walk you though this.
What was going on in the marriage and how that relates to the medical practice has a big impact on how it will be viewed during the divorce. If the couple married before or during one spouse’s time in medical school, the other spouse has a much bigger claim on the practice than if they met and married right before it was opened. They have even less of a claim if they met and married after the practice had been opened and was deemed to be successful.
As with everything, there are always extenuating circumstances. This is why the divorce for physicians can get complicated, If there are children, the non-physician spouse can always say the practicing doctor was able to devote their time and energy to that practice because the other spouse gave up their career to devote to the family. They may claim that they left a lucrative and successful career of their own to allow their spouse to grow their practice, therefore at least part of it belongs to them. This is an argument that has won over more than one judge and is not without merit.
Another complicated situation can pop up when both spouses are doctors. The fate of the practice in this instance depends on how it was started. If they work together at practice they founded together or became partners, it will be divided 50-50. If that is not the case, judges will look at where they are both employed and what their respective incomes are. The main way this impacts the divorce is when they work together.
Given the complexities of the divorce for physicians, it is always a good idea to at least seek out a consultation with a good divorce attorney so that you know what your rights are but also to know what you might be up against. Unlike the other marital assets like the family home and bank accounts, a medical practice is most likely the way one spouse makes a living. Unlike other kinds of businesses, say a restaurant, it cannot be sold the same way. Patients can be loyal and not want to see someone else. For doctors going through a divorce, there are resources to help them keep their practices.