According to recent studies, divorce among doctors is not as common as one would expect. If you are a doctor who is considering getting a divorce in spite of the positive statistics, there will likely be special considerations that you may need to address with a family law attorney. In general, the divorce process can be a complicated process; when one or both spouses are doctors, a divorce may be even more complex. The heightened complexity of the divorce could stem from various reasons, such as increased earning potential; the existence of a private practice; or the amount of financial support contributed by the non-doctor spouse.

Any doctor with a private practice might find it stressful to consider that a divorce may affect his or her practice negatively. In Massachusetts, the ways divorce can affect your practice may vary depending on your marital situation. Massachusetts judges divide marital property equitably among the spouses upon divorce. It is important to understand that equitably does not always mean equally, as judges base their decisions on fairness.

Can the practice be marital property?

It can be a common misconception that if property was acquired before a marriage, it will not be divided upon the dissolution of that marriage. In Massachusetts, the judge will divide the property in any way he or she feels is equitable. This could be even if the spouse acquired the property before the marriage occurred.

For a doctor who started his or her own practice prior to the marriage, this could mean the practice counts as marital property and is subject to division. Usually, an appraisal determines the value of the practice. To avoid causing economic damage to the practice, the court may offset against the existing property value. For example, let’s say the doctor’s medical practice is worth $300k and the parties own a $300k home together. The non-doctor spouse will keep the house and the doctor will keep the medical practice.

What if the both spouses are doctors?

The situation may differ when both spouses are doctors and started their medical practice together. If this were the situation, the practice would most likely be divided equally. What about the rare chance that the spouses decide they can work with one another post-divorce? In that case, spouses may avoid division of the practice. As continuing to work together is usually not a viable option, however, (hence the divorce) one doctor will be required to buy out the portion considered marital property from the other spouse.

How divorce could affect your staff:

Unless you are a sole practitioner, it is important to evaluate how your pending divorce may affect partners and staff. A divorce may affect your shares in your practice and your money flow; in return, this may affect your ability to pay your support staff. Although every situation is different, being proactive and discussing with a divorce attorney the possible repercussions your divorce may have on your practice is important.

How much alimony?

Another complicated issue that may arise for a divorcing doctor is how much alimony the non-doctor spouse should receive. A common scenario is where the non-doctor spouse worked to help support the other spouse through medical education. Moreover, a lawyer may argue that the non-doctor spouse forfeited a promising career so that the other spouse could pursue his or her career as a doctor. Either argument may persuade a judge that the non-doctor spouse has entitlement to more alimony; or, the non-doctor spouse may receive a larger portion of the marital property.

Massachusetts law considers reimbursement alimony for the non-doctor spouse in a short-term marriage (no more than 5 years). Reimbursement alimony functions as a way to pay back the non-doctor spouse for any economic contributions he or she may have made to the spouse who received the medical education. Generally, a judge awards this alimony when one spouse made economic contributions to help the other spouse complete education.

Contact us:

Are you looking for an experienced Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer or family law attorney? If you are a doctor considering getting a divorce, you should contact a divorce attorney as soon as possible. Divorce can be a very difficult process. Added complications may arise when doctors divorce, especially in situations with a private practice. As a doctor who is potentially divorcing, it is important to be transparent with your divorce attorney because it is possible your pending divorce may affect your life in ways you were not expecting. For more questions regarding special considerations a doctor should be aware of when seeking a divorce, please contact our office at your earliest convenience to schedule a free consultation.