Medicine is more than just a profession. For many doctors, it is an integral part of their lives. Being a physician involves much more than simply going to an office, talking to a few patients and going home.
That’s why it can be particularly complicated when a doctor and his or her partner divorce. There are unique complications that most other couples will not face. When going through a divorce, doctors should take into consideration some of the unique complications that may come up during the process.
Valuing the practice
Some assets, like the cars and the house, will be fairly easy to value. A medical practice, however, is a completely different beast. When dividing property, doctors will inevitably have to deal with how to value their practice. Some things to consider are how to calculate professional and enterprise goodwill, who owns expensive medical equipment and how to make fair distribution of a practice. It may be necessary to seek the counsel of an attorney who practices family law and has handled divorces for physicians.
As we mentioned earlier, many doctors’ practices are integrated into their family life. Sometimes, a physician’s spouse even serves as the office’s manager, receptionist and scheduler-without any pay. Having a spouse act as a de facto employee may have saved some money in previous years, but it can cost a physician dearly in a divorce. Many spouses will try to factor their years of unpaid labor into the divorce settlements, potentially leaving their ex on the hook for several years’ salary.
Dividing investment and retirement accounts
Many doctors’ wealth is tied up in their investment or retirement accounts. This can be an issue for many physicians, but especially for those who do not have access to their accounts because they are not yet 65. Many accounts that were set aside with the intention of accumulating interest for a certain number of years are very difficult to divide. This is another scenario that may call for an attorney or financial adviser. If doctor and spouse cannot reach an agreement about the investment accounts, the accounts may have to be liquefied to be distributed.