Divorce Considerations for Doctors
Divorce court is public, which surprises many people. Anyone can come in off the street and sit in on your divorce trial. They can also gain access to your court transcripts or other materials filed as part of your divorce simply by going to the court clerk and requesting to see your file.
Doctors and other professionals have special considerations they should keep in mind if they are headed for divorce. Meet with a Media divorce lawyer at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates to review what steps you can take to protect yourself and your practice.
Preserving the Confidentiality of Patient Records
As part of a divorce, attorneys and others will try to value assets. This means taking an invasive look at a medical practice.
To protect the confidentiality of your patients, you should have all relevant parties (lawyers, your spouse, accountants, etc.) sign confidentiality agreements. These are legally binding agreements not to share business information with anyone who is not authorized to see it.
Your attorney can also take steps to preserve the confidentiality of some records by having a judge agree to seal them or redact them. Although most divorce records are public, some can have sensitive information withheld if special circumstances warrant. This step is sometimes necessary to prevent an illegal disclosure of a patient’s health information.
Valuing and Dividing a Medical Practice
Some doctors have the misconception that the practice is 100% theirs because they built it. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law does not view marital property that way. Instead, your attorney will need to take a close look at when you started the practice—before or after marriage—as well as how large the practice grew while you were married.
It is entirely possible that some (or all) of the value of your medical practice will be considered marital and subject to equitable distribution. Some doctors need to buy out their spouse’s share of the practice so that they can continue to run their business. If your spouse was also a doctor and you had a joint practice, then you must give careful consideration as to how you will divide patients or whether you can continue to work together after divorce.
Paying Spousal Support
Not all doctors have high net worth, but many do. Having to pay spousal support (alimony) to your ex is a real possibility in these cases. Doctors should carefully consider trying to negotiate a marital settlement agreement so they can control how much alimony they pay (or whether they pay it at all). They should also carefully consider the tax consequences of having to pay alimony.
Seeking Child Custody
Many doctors find themselves as the primary breadwinner with a spouse who stayed at home to raise the children. When judges decide custody, a key factor is the current relationship each parent has with the children. Doctors putting in 80-hour weeks are at a disadvantage for gaining custody. They might also struggle getting a judge to agree to provide adequate visitation as part of a parenting plan. Hiring a lawyer who is attuned to this problem is key.
Speak with a Delaware County Divorce Lawyer Now
Doctors have busy professional lives that do not slow down for divorce. If you have received divorce papers, or if you want to initiate a divorce, contact Barbara Flum Stein & Associates to schedule your initial consultation.