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Top 5 Common Mistakes Doctors Make During a Divorce

At the DeWitt Law Firm, we understand that starting over is expensive. Not many life events impact your finances and family like a divorce. However, having an experienced divorce attorney can help to protect your interests and your assets. When representing doctors, physicians, and medical professionals, there are certain considerations to evaluate. Below is a list of the top 5 mistakes we see doctors, physicians, and medical professionals routinely make during a divorce. In order to avoid these mistakes and other pitfalls, be sure to consult with a divorce professional who has the experience necessary to properly represent your interests.

1. Not insisting on Confidentiality Agreements

When dealing with a medical practice, there is a lot of sensitive information, which should not be disclosed to third parties. Insisting upon a confidentiality agreement ensures that your patient list and other proprietary information stays private. This is especially important when dealing with a valuation expert hired by your spouse. You do not want your spouse publishing the private personal information of your medical practice to the public, or to friends or relatives. Additionally, you want to ensure that your patients are protected and their information is not revealed to a third party. Insisting upon a confidentiality agreement ensures that only the parties to the case have access to the information and it will not be revealed to the public. If privileged information were to be released and you did not have a confidentiality agreement in place, you could be liable for the damage caused by the improper disclosure.

2. Failing to Properly Value the Medical Practice

The value of a physician’s medical practice is often a point of contention in a divorce proceeding. Typically, the dispute centers around the amount of personal goodwill associated with the medical practice. Personal goodwill comes from the doctor’s reputation, experience, training, and ability. Generally, goodwill is the most subjective and variable asset in valuing a medical practice and is not considered to be a marital component when valuing the business. For purposes of a divorce, the value of the practice must always be based on the commercial goodwill, not personal goodwill. Commercial goodwill is the value of the practice regardless of which physician is working in the practice. When determining the marital component of the value of the medical practice, it is imperative to remove the value for the personal goodwill. In other words, the practice must be valued as if you were not a part of it. There may also be non-marital components to the practice, which must be separately valued.

3. Not Using Experts

Experts are an invaluable resource when dealing with financially complex divorces. When valuing a medical practice, it is important to retain an expert with the appropriate skills and expertise to properly assess the value. Additionally, experts are helpful with issues regarding taxation and in some cases regarding children. An attorney experienced in handling complex divorces will know when it is appropriate to retain the necessary experts and when it would be overkill to do so.

4. Not Fighting to Have an Active Role in the lives of the children.

Doctors, physicians, and medical professionals typically work long hours and may not have had an active role as a caregiver for the minor children. After separating from a spouse, many physicians find that they will need to adjust their schedule to accommodate caring for the children during his or her timesharing. As this may not always be possible, a third party caregiver may be needed to assist with the children. It is important that your spouse not try to limit your timesharing with the minor children due to your work schedule. Most Judges want the children to spend as much time as possible with both parents, unless one parent is unfit. When going through a divorce it is important that you fight to have substantial timesharing with your children, even if you have a busy or erratic work schedule.

5. Hiring the Wrong Attorney

An inexperienced attorney can be disastrous to a complex divorce case. However, there may be certain experienced attorneys who can be just as disastrous. Unfortunately, certain lawyers are intent on manipulating situations to their financial advantage. By facilitating arguments over big and little items, they can churn files to generate huge legal fees. When selecting an attorney, do not fall for the myth that you need an attorney who takes a scorched earth approach. Select an attorney who has extensive experience representing doctors, physicians, and other high net worth individuals in complex divorce cases and who is known for litigation and alternative dispute resolutions. While you need strong representation, you do not need representation that will strong arm your wallet.