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While California divorce law does not have any special rules that apply to divorce for doctors, the fact is, doctors’ lives and lifestyles often share certain features such that the same types of issues commonly arise in divorces involving doctors in California. If you or your spouse are a physician, it is important to understand how divorce law will apply to your situation. For further information, advice, or legal representation in structuring your divorce, the San Diego divorce attorneys at Doppelt & Forney can help. Our lawyers have over five decades of combined experience working in California family courts handling divorce and other family law issues for physicians and other medical professionals. We serve clients throughout the San Diego metropolitan area, including clients residing in Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Coronado, La Mesa, Vista, La Jolla, Del Mar, Ramona, Oceanside, Point Loma, and other nearby municipalities.Common Issues in Divorces Involving California Physicians
The average annual salary of medical doctors in California is comfortably north of $200,000, and in some specialties, significantly higher. While many other professionals in California also enjoy high compensation levels, few compare with physicians as a group. Moreover, medicine is a field that also frequently involves unusual and long hours.
Consequently, it is not unusual for married physicians to have a stay-at-home spouse: the high compensation enables the family to live well on one salary, and the unusual hours often means one parent will stay home to make the marriage sustainable and raising a family possible. Even when a spouse does work, it is usually in a less demanding job at a lower salary. These factors can have significant implications in divorce for doctors with respect to spousal support, asset division, and child custody.
Spousal support is intended to enable each party to adjust to divorced life without needing to make significant sacrifices in lifestyle. While both parties will generally experience some decline in disposable income (because supporting two households on the same income will incur higher expenses), spousal support eases the transition for the lower-earning spouse by requiring the higher-earning spouse to pay support for a period of time. In divorces involving doctors, this usually means that the physician spouse will be paying a great deal of support. And if the non-physician spouse is a stay-at-home parent, the term of support may be rather extended, particularly for marriages of long duration.
It is important to be aware that a medical license is not community property even when obtained during marriage. However, just as with any other business, the value of an active medical practice may be community property if the practice was built up during the marriage. Thus, if the value of the practice is substantial, the non-physician spouse is entitled to a community share of that value, even though courts generally do not favor allowing the non-physician spouse to retain ownership of the practice itself. Valuation of a medical practice can be complicated, and will include both the practice’s assets as well as its “good will”— that is, its viability as a successful, continuing, or growing business.
The stress and abnormal working hours of a physician spouse may also make child custody arrangements difficult to work out. While many physicians maintain normal office hours, it is also true that they may be on-call at specific times in case of medical emergencies, and on-call schedules are not always well-established in advance. Consequently, parenting plans for doctors when custody is shared will need to be flexible.Divorce Attorneys Representing Doctors and Doctors’ Spouses in San Diego
Divorce can be a relatively simple or a complicated process, depending upon the length of the marriage, the assets involved, the financial status of the couple, and the presence of minor children. Divorce for doctors will usually run to the more complicated end of the spectrum. For advice and assistance with a divorce involving a physician, contact one of our San Diego divorce lawyers at 800-769-4748 or use our online form to set up a free in-person or virtual consultation.