The long hours and high stress of being a doctor can certainly put a strain on a marriage. If you believe divorce is right around the corner, then you need to take steps to protect yourself. Doctors, like other high net worth people, have a lot to lose if they try to tackle their divorce on their own or try to “wing” it. Instead, proper planning is necessary to protect assets and your medical practice.
At Lawrence Law Office, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss what steps to take to set yourself up for the future. Please contact us so we can get started.
Hire the Right Attorney
You should not hire someone who is inexperienced with high net worth divorces or with divorces involving doctors specifically. A “green” attorney can make critical errors that hurt your practice, end up costing you more money, and probably will leave you with a divorce that is unsatisfying.
Meet with an attorney for a consultation to discuss the lawyer’s experience. Also raise any concerns that you have. Only hire an attorney if you think he or she is a good “fit”; otherwise, keep looking.
Use a Comprehensive Confidentiality Agreement
In a divorce, you will need to equitably divide marital assets. This means your spouse’s attorney will be riffling through your medical practice records in an attempt to properly value the business. As a result, opposing counsel can and will come across information that is sensitive—client names and health information, vendor contracts, etc.
You should insist on using a very comprehensive confidentiality agreement that limits who can see this information and for what purpose. Without an agreement, you could potentially be vulnerable to a lawsuit from a patient.
Value Your Business Properly
Your business might qualify as marital property, which means it is subject to equitable distribution. This might surprise you or even anger you—after all, you built this medical practice, not your spouse. Nevertheless, the law basically presumes any property or asset you obtained while married is marital.
Even if you started your practice while single, any increase in the value of your practice could be considered marital. Valuation issues are very tricky, and you might need expert help. The right attorney can find valuation experts and accountants to help value the business and untangle how much is your separate property and how much is marital.
Disclose All Financial Assets
You might be tempted to hide assets you own, such as property in another state or a financial account under a maiden name. You should avoid the temptation. Hiding assets is frowned upon by judges. In fact, a judge can award your spouse more property than usual if you get caught hiding assets.
Disclose everything to your lawyer. If you get money from a trust, then your lawyer needs to know about that even if you are only a beneficiary and not the trustee. Let your lawyer decide what assets should be disclosed to the court.
Be Upfront about Personal Problems
Many doctors work under incredible stress. To deal with that, some might take prescription drugs or even drink. Addiction is nothing to be embarrassed about; however, it could come up in a divorce, especially if you are fighting for custody of children.
Substance addiction could also impact your license to practice medicine in Ohio, so you need to approach this issue carefully with your attorney. If your lawyer doesn’t know about these things, then she can’t help you effectively. The last thing you want is for your lawyer to be blindsided by a revelation that comes out in court.
You should assume all negative information will get aired in court—criminal arrests or citations, extramarital affairs, gambling addictions, etc. Disclose this information to your attorney, who can strategize about how best to deal with it.
No matter how busy your practice, you need to make your divorce a priority. Once you receive divorce papers, you have a limited amount of time to respond. One reason for hiring an attorney is that he or she can ensure you always meet deadlines. However, you also need to give your attorney any information requested as soon as possible.
Get the Legal Help You Need
To start planning for your divorce, please contact Lawrence Law Office today. It is possible to have a relatively smooth divorce, but you need to get organized. You can schedule a confidential consultation with one of our lawyers by reaching out by phone or email.