Divorcing Complications for Doctors
Divorce can be a complicated, stressful process, regardless of your profession. Divorcing doctors typically have unique issues to deal with that can make the process even more complex than it might be for the average couple. The following may be key areas of concern for doctors going through a divorce.
Division of Marital Assets
Illinois follows the principle of “equitable distribution” in dividing marital assets. This means that assets and debts must be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable manner, but not necessarily equally. In dividing marital property, the court considers various factors, including each spouse’s income and future earning potential.
Debt associated with a medical practice is included in its valuation. Many doctors are paying off student loans accumulated during college and medical school. Generally, student loans are considered a separate debt and not included in the distribution of marital property.
Valuation of Your Medical Practice
A valuation of your practice must be done for marital property to be divided equitably. If the practice was started during the marriage, it will probably be treated as marital property, subject to equitable distribution. You will need to hire a business evaluation expert who has experience specifically with medical practices. Factors impacting the value of the practice include the doctor’s reputation, goodwill, and longevity in the area.
Under state law, family law courts may order maintenance, or spousal support, when appropriate. In awarding maintenance, the court will not consider the behavior of either spouse. Instead, it considers factors such as how much each will likely earn in the coming years and the standard of living to which the couple is accustomed.
If your spouse supported the family while you attended medical school or gave up his or her career to take care of the children and household while you advanced your medical career, the judge will take this into account. It is in the best interest of both spouses to agree on a fair maintenance amount privately.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
Illinois uses the term “child allocation” instead of “child custody.” Physical allocation refers to the parenting time schedule and who the child lives with. Legal allocation refers to the right to make important decisions for the child, for example, concerning religion, education, or health.
Doctors are often required to work non-traditional hours, with long and sometimes inconsistent shifts. Practicing medicine is not always on a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 schedule. Your work schedule can affect allocation of parental responsibilities and the time you have to spend with your children. First and foremost, the court must consider the child’s best interests. It is best to work out these issues between the spouses, with the help of your attorneys or a mediator. It is critical to have experienced legal representation to protect your rights.
Importance of Experienced Legal Representation
Issues involved in a divorce, such as division of marital assets and allocation of parental responsibilities can become even more complex, and potentially contentious, when one of the parties is a doctor. It is important to have a knowledgeable attorney with experience in high-asset divorce cases who can assist you, among other things, in:
- Determining which assets and debts are marital property and which are separate property
- Obtaining proper valuations of your medical practice and other assets
- Ensuring that contractual obligations in any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are honored
- Protecting your parental rights
- Assisting you in reaching agreements with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse regarding important issues such as maintenance and parenting time.
At Nottage and Ward, LLP, we have focused our practice only on divorce and family law for more than 30 years. If you are a doctor facing divorce in Chicago, contact us at (312) 332-2915 for the skilled legal representation you need.
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