A medical practice could qualify as a marital asset, depending on when it was started and how large it grew during marriage. In some divorces, a portion of the practice’s value will be considered marital, while some other portion is considered the physician’s separate property. Physicians can usually exit a marriage with their separate property, but all marital property is subject to equitable distribution.
When even a fraction of a practice is considered marital, there is the possibility that a physician could lose control of her business. The division of marital property is fraught with difficulty whenever a business asset is involved. Disputes often erupt over valuation and how it will ultimately be divided.
At our firm, we work with clients to attempt to retain control of their practice. In some cases, you can take the entire practice with you but your spouse gets an offsetting amount of other marital assets. For example, you might exit with 100% of the practice but your spouse gets the marital home. In other situations, you need to take different steps if you want to keep full control of your practice. Some of our physician clients might need to take out a loan and buy out their spouse’s share. Selling the practice is not out of the realm of possibility and is definitely something we try to avoid.
Our clients also must ensure the confidentiality of their client’s medical information during a divorce, otherwise they could be breaking federal law. The right attorney can ensure that all parties sign confidentiality agreements and that certain business information is sealed from public view. These steps must be taken very early in the case before information is leaked out or distributed to others involved in the case, such as valuation experts.
Child Custody and Child Support
One reason doctors are so admired is that many seem to work 24/7. This is true of new residents but also of many accomplished doctors, all of whom put in long hours with patients or doing rounds.
Unfortunately, this time at work can cut into time spent with children—which becomes directly relevant in a child custody dispute. A judge will determine custody based on what is in the best interests of the child, and this can include analyzing the strength of each parent’s bond with the children.
If you were busy working on weekends—even if it was to benefit your family—you could find yourself disadvantaged in a child custody dispute. This is especially true if your spouse stayed at home to watch the children. She could claim to have a stronger bond with the children, which would support giving her custody.
We can work to resolve child custody issues outside of court through a settlement agreement. However, we can also go into court and argue why you are more fit to have custody of the children than your ex
The fact that you work long hours does not, by itself, mean you cannot get custody, especially if the children are in their adolescence.
Child support is directly tied to child custody, as the more time a parent has with the children, the less they pay in child support typically. High earning individuals need a lawyer who understands the state’s child support guidelines, which use a formula to determine the amount of monthly support. However, those who make a high income might have their support calculated outside the guidelines. The possibility of paying a huge child support award–$20,000 or even more—is a real possibility.
Navigating a Prenuptial Agreement
Established doctors might have put in place a prenuptial agreement that deals with such issues as spousal support and the division of marital property. Judges will enforce these agreements in most cases. However, some prenuptial agreements are vulnerable because one spouse did not make a full disclosure of assets or because they used fraud or duress to procure one.
We have experience analyzing prenuptial agreements and identifying their legal vulnerabilities. Depending on the circumstances, we can ask the judge to either enforce it or strike it down. If a prenuptial agreement is set aside, then the divorce will proceed according to Ohio’s divorce laws, which are often much more favorable to the spouse who is not a physician.