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Could divorce destroy your medical practice?

Physicians have a divorce rate that's as much as 20 percent higher than the average population's divorce rate -- which is a fact that physicians should consider when building their practice.

That way, they can take some steps to make sure that if a divorce does happen to them, their business won't fold because of it.

Consider the following steps:

1. Consider a prenup, particularly if this is a second or third marriage (which have even higher rates of failure than first marriages). If it is already too late for a prenup, consider a post-nuptial agreement that you can both agree is fair, while things are good between you. Experts say this is particularly important when professionals marry other professionals and both have a roughly equal stake in the practice or separate practices to protect.

2. If you don't have a prenup or a postnup in place, don't panic. You can still end your marriage without ending your entire practice if you and your spouse are willing to try mediation. Not only is mediation far less costly than a contested divorce, it's private -- which means that your marital conflicts won't be fodder for every gossip in the county.

Mediation helps people focus on what divorce really is: a business decision. Litigation is generally more about emotion.

3. Be prepared for some difficult issues that may have to be addressed, depending on the nature of your relationship with your spouse, how long it has been in existence, and when it started. For example, you may have to address a number of these complex questions:

  • If the non-physician spouse worked while the physician-spouse went through school, should he or she be compensated more for that sacrifice?
  • If the non-physician spouse acted as the physician's unpaid office manager, what was that service worth? How much of the business rightfully belongs to the non-physician spouse, given the time and effort he or she put into helping build it?
  • How can a non-physician spouse be adequately compensated if the majority of the family funds are tied up in investments that can't be easily liquidated until a certain number of years have passed?

If you're a physician, it's important to retain expert legal advice as soon as you think that you might be facing a divorce. It may be easier, and cheaper, in the long run to get some early advice.

Source: Medical Economics, "Divorce: How to make sure the dissolution of your marriage doesn't take your practice with it," Debra Beaulieu, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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