What Issues Are Unique to Doctor Divorces?
Getting divorced can be challenging—emotionally, mentally, and financially, and the process can become more complicated if either party is a medical professional, such as a doctor. Below, we will discuss the unique concerns that doctors and their spouses may face during the divorce process.
Is a Medical Degree Subject to Division in a Florida Divorce?
In Florida, a professional license, including a medical license, is not subject to division even if the license was obtained during the marriage. Your spouse’s medical degree is also not considered marital property. However, a professional license and advanced degree can still affect your divorce.
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property and debts will be divided equitably but not necessarily equally. Florida Statutes § 61.075 outlines the factors that the court will consider when determining an equitable property division settlement, and one of the factors is whether one party has contributed to the other’s personal career or educational opportunities.
Thus, while a medical degree is not marital property that can be divided, a spouse helping the other obtain the degree can help them achieve a more favorable division of the assets.Help from the non-doctor spouse can include:
- Paying for the other party’s tuition
- Using a sole income to support the couple while one party attended school
- Serving as a homemaker and making it possible for the other to attend school
Is Your Medical Practice Considered Marital Property?
Another concern in doctor divorces is whether a spouse’s medical practice is subject to division and how it will be divided if so. Marital property includes any assets that have been acquired during the marriage, and these assets are subject to equitable distribution. Commingled assets, which are assets that were acquired prior to the marriage but have been maintained and aided by the other spouse during the marriage, are also subject to division. A medical practice may become commingled if the non-doctor/owner spouse:
- Contributes to property upkeep or payment
- Helped to grow the practice using their skills or services (i.e. by keeping the books, doing the business taxes, handling the marketing, etc.)
- Works at the practice in some capacity
While a spouse with no medical background will not be given the medical practice, the court can order the doctor spouse to give the other party a share of the business or funds equivalent to half the value of the practice (i.e. buy out the other party).
Alimony & the Non-Doctor Spouse
Many people mistakenly believe that a spouse with a lower-paying job will automatically receive alimony from their partner. However, alimony is not meant to solely ensure a spouse maintains their standard of living but is meant to help a person get to a place where they can take care of their needs without assistance.
In determining alimony, the court will consider the obligator’s ability to make payments and the need of the oblige. They will also consider:
- The length of the marriage
- What training or education the oblige will need to reenter the workforce
- The age of each party
- The physical and emotional health of each party
- The financial resources of each party (including their marital and separate property)
- The earning capacity of each party
- The contributions each party made to the marriage
- All streams of income that each party has
- Any other factors deemed relevant
Child Custody & Doctor Divorces
If either spouse has a demanding work schedule, such as shift work, irregular scheduling, and on-call hours, determining a parenting schedule and child custody can be challenging. Parents can work to agree on a schedule that is flexible or that changes if their work is seasonable; however, if parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will have to decide.
If left to the court, long or irregular hours can be a factor that affects the court’s decision. It is important to remember that there are a host of other factors that the court considers, and the best interest of the child is their primary concern.
A popular shared parenting plan for families with one co-parent with a demanding work schedule is the 70-30 plan with alternating weekends and a weekday visit or overnight stay. With this co-parenting schedule, one parent has custody for 11 days and the other has custody for the following three days (and repeat). Then, during the initial 11 days that Parent A has custody, Parent B will have an overnight or daytime visit with their child.
Get Help With Your Divorce Case
Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office is committed to helping clients navigate the divorce process as smoothly as possible. If you or your spouse is a doctor or medical professional, our attorneys can help you understand the unique issues you may face during your case and build a personalized case strategy. Whether you are concerned about spousal maintenance, the division of the doctor-spouse’s degree, or another case element, we are here and prepared to answer your questions and advise you concerning the next steps.
Schedule an initial case consultation today. Call (727) 312-1112 or contact us online.