divorcing a doctor

When you are facing divorce as a physician with a private practice, issues like property division and child custody become more complicated, even if the separation is amicable. In fact, there are several unique concerns during the process of divorcing as a doctor, including:

  • Putting together a custody and visitation schedule
  • Valuing the medical practice and dividing the marital estate
  • The negotiation of spousal maintenance

A San Diego family law attorney with experience in physician divorces can help you navigate these issues in a way that benefits your children while helping you protect and continue to benefit from the professional career and reputation you worked so hard to build.

Division of High-Value Marital Assets

California is a community property state, meaning that all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are presumed to belong equally to both spouses, which is why a lot of physicians opt for a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. 

If you opened your practice after getting married, its financial value could be subject to a 50-50 split during your divorce. Even if the practice was already established before you met your spouse, any increase in value that occurred during the marriage can be split according to California’s community property rules, especially if your spouse gave up their own career aspirations to support your goals and/or raise a family.

It is entirely possible that you and your spouse will be happy to negotiate a fair division of the marital estate. However, if they are determined to keep as much money and property as possible or insinuate that you are not entitled to what you are asking for, a high asset divorce lawyer will negotiate on your behalf and even pursue litigation to achieve a just result. 

Addressing a Private Practice in a San Diego Divorce

When it comes to property division, a medical practice is one of the most difficult assets to address. 

To begin with, in California, medical corporations must have at least one physician owner, and licensed doctors must hold the majority of shares. Even minority shareholders must be so-called ‘allied’ medical professionals, such as licensed nurses, psychologists, or clinical social workers. 

Anyone who is not a doctor or allied medical professional cannot be awarded any degree of practice ownership in a divorce, although they may seek a share of the value it gained during the marriage. If you and your spouse cannot reach a settlement agreement, the court will have to make a determination and award.

As you can imagine, this type of determination and award is not easy, as it involves more than the income-based value. The court will have to look at variables like:

  • Any contributions your spouse made to the success of the practice. Did they work there with you? If so, in what capacity? Did they help the practice grow, either through efficient administration or presenting a positive image to patients?
  • The goodwill value of the practice. Factors that contribute to goodwill include your spouse’s professional skill and reputation, the staff employed there, and the efficiency of systems like billing and scheduling. 
  • Whether the practice was established before the marriage and, if so, how many years before.

Your California divorce lawyer will retain an experienced appraiser and even a neutral financial expert who can put together an accurate overview of the practice’s overall value. This way, you can prevent any business interruption by offering your spouse marital property equal to the value of their assigned financial interest in the practice.

Child Custody in a Physician Divorce

Doctors work long and hard to obtain their credentials, and their work schedules are usually more demanding and unpredictable than other professionals. Much as they love their families, they are often absent from the home and get to spend less time with their children than their non-physician spouses, which can make a custody schedule more complicated.

You and your spouse can negotiate your own custody and visitation schedule but if you fail to agree, the court will make a determination based on what it believes to be in the best interests of your children. Ideally, they will spend as much time with each parent as possible, so the court will attempt to create as fair a schedule as possible based on factors like the following:

  • The work schedule and availability of each parent
  • Which parent was the primary caregiver as the children were growing up
  • The age and health of each child
  • Whether there are allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse

An experienced California child custody lawyer can help you navigate this aspect of family law and strive for the most favorable result possible.

Spousal Maintenance

In many doctors’ marriages, the physician spouse usually brings in a higher income than their husband or wife. Chances are that your spouse passed up opportunities to improve their earning potential so that they could support your career and maintain a stable home life for the children. Now that you are facing divorce, they may be worried about their standard of living and financial security being compromised.

Although spousal support, also known as alimony, is not as common as it used to be, courts will still award it in cases where divorce leaves the lesser-earning spouse at a financial disadvantage. If your spouse is asking for alimony, your San Diego divorce lawyer can seek to negotiate an arrangement that gives them a reasonable amount of time to become economically self-sufficient.

Mediation in Physician Divorces

If you and your spouse disagree on any aspects of the divorce, you may be able to bypass the time, stress, and expense of litigation by mediating the area(s) of contention.

Mediation is a non-binding dispute resolution process that allows both sides to discuss their goals and obtain objective recommendations. You work with a neutral mediator to reach an agreement and will consult with your attorney both during the mediation and prior to signing the divorce settlement agreement.

Attorney Richard Renkin is a skilled mediator who received training from the National Conflict Resolution Center. He and his team will advocate for a divorce settlement agreement that is as collaborative as possible, so that your spouse is more likely to abide by its terms in the future.

Speak to a Physician Divorce Lawyer Today

If you are thinking about divorce or have already been served with court papers, you probably wonder what you should do next. The answer is: seek representation from an attorney who understands the dynamics involved.

With so many different issues that may arise regarding asset division, custody, and spousal support, you need a California family law attorney with a proven success record in handling divorce cases in San Diego. At the Law Offices of Renkin & Associates, we have years of experience representing doctors in family law matters and will work tirelessly to help you obtain a fair settlement in your case. To speak with a divorce lawyer at our firm, please contact us.

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