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Keep your medical practice safe during divorce: Where to focus

When you own your own medical practice, there's almost no way to keep your divorce out of the office.

The office -- in fact, the whole practice -- may be a big part of the conflicts that arise when it comes time to divide up the assets during the divorce.

Tennessee uses the rule of "equitable distribution" when it comes to marital property -- meaning that equal isn't always fair. That may play into your favor if you own a practice that you started after you were married but your spouse did little or nothing to contribute toward the success of that practice.

On the other hand, if your spouse did have a role in making your business a success -- even if it was unheralded and unpaid, you may not be so thrilled with how the court views his or her right to compensation.

There are three basic things that you need to focus on when you sit down to discuss the whole thing with your attorney:

  1. What part of your practice is considered "marital assets." It could range from the entire practice -- if you started it after getting married -- to only the percentage of growth that your practice has seen since the marriage began.
  2. How to properly value the practice or the part of the practice that is likely to be considered marital property.
  3. How to compensate your spouse for his or her share of the marital property without having to close the practice.

Closing your practice shouldn't be the end result of your divorce. It's unlikely that's what either you or your spouse wants to see happen. Your livelihood depends on it, and your spouse may be looking for spousal support or child support that depends on you having the income to pay it.

Fortunately, attorneys who are familiar with high-asset divorces are also familiar with ways to preserve things like a thriving medical practice while still finding ways to compensate a spouse for his or her share. It just sometimes requires a little creative thinking or the sacrifice of something less important in the long run.

Keep your focus firmly on those three issues and talk with your attorney about how to handle the property settlement in a way that lets you close the doors on your marriage without closing the doors on your practice as well.

Source: Medscape, "How Divorce Could Affect Your Medical Practice," Dennis G Murray, MA, accessed Sep. 14, 2017

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