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Special Considerations When Doctors Divorce

If you are a doctor, you already know the commitment you had to make years ago to being someone who can take care of others on the level that you do. We look to doctors as stabilizers and healers. Doctors are thought of as constantly ready, constantly prepared, and never flustered. However, we know deep down that no person is frequently anything. We all fluctuate from being in control of ourselves and our surroundings to feeling a bit at the mercy of our circumstances. Doctors like you do right by all of us by controlling life's circumstances as fully as possible.

A divorce is one of those circumstances that life throws at us that cannot be fully controlled- by anyone. If you happen to be reading today's blog post and are not a doctor, then I don't want you to walk away from this article thinking that doctors, or anyone else for that matter, have magical powers that you don't possess. Divorce is tough on everyone who goes through it—no matter your educational background, money in the bank, or any other factor. Everyone struggles with their divorce to one degree or another. This includes doctors, plumbers, electricians, teachers, or bus drivers.

For doctors, a divorce offers an opportunity to clarify what is most important with yourself and your family. Your career is more than a career. It is a way of life to heal people. You cannot be 50% committed to being a doctor or even 99%. It would help if you were fully committed to caring for your neighbor. With that tremendous responsibility comes choices that you have to make. Specifically, you have options to make that have to do with your time. How should you best devote your precious time outside of being a doctor to best suit your life and that of your family? Every doctor, just like every one of us, has different circumstances to bear in mind and weigh against one another.

This becomes an even more critical discussion when you throw a divorce into the mix. A physician already has limited time to do what they need and want to do. However, a divorce case can threaten to suck up any remaining time that you have in your life. Your children, your family, your hobbies, your home- all of it can be condensed further down in terms of access for you when you are involved with a divorce. Instead of spending more time with your kids, you may have to respond to discover requests or prepare for mediation. Rather than volunteering more at your church, you may be so stressed out from your divorce that you choose to stay home instead.

This is a pretty bleak picture that I am painting for you; I realize that. Not every doctor's divorce is the same. Not every doctor's divorce is an overly litigious or acrimonious battle between spouses. However, I like to work with clients to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you are ready for your divorce, or even the chance of a divorce, you can position yourself to have success however you define that term. At the very least, you will not be surprised at every turn of your case. You may find that you can take advantage of your spouse's lack of preparation by thinking ahead and planning with an eye towards an efficient, amicable resolution of your case.

Amicable divorce. Sounds like an oxymoron, am I right? Somewhere up there with "airline service" or "jumbo shrimp," amicable divorce sounds weird to say. Every divorce is angry and spiteful, right? You've probably heard the stories from colleagues, friends, and family members about how divorce isn't only unpleasant, but it is a knock-down, drag-out brawl that you need to have two fists up at all times to wage successfully. I think people relish telling their friends at the beginning stages of divorce just how bad their case may wind up. Something about a misery-loving company, or something like that.

Divorce, even for doctors, does not have to be a fight.

The part about divorces all being hell on earth does not have to be. It certainly can be, but that is not the default setting. Like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While you certainly can make your divorce a terrible experience (even judging by divorce standards), you also can make your divorce one where you can accomplish your objectives and get out before any more of your time and life are spent dealing with unpleasant matters related to divorce.

Where do you being when it comes to learning how to make this your reality? Sure, a random/ lawyer on the internet may have said that your divorce doesn't have to be a fight, but is that true for you in particular. After all, you're a doctor and have a family to concern yourself with. Maybe even a medical practice to protect. Do these same rules apply to you specifically? The answer is yes. You can achieve a great deal of success in your divorce and do so without the "normal" fighting that people associate with divorce. All it takes is a positive attitude and a willingness to set aside some of your differences with your spouse.

A friend of mine is fond of saying: business is accessible until people get involved. He means that operating a business is not much work until people, and all of our quirks and weaknesses, enter the scene. It is hard to manage people. It is even harder to handle them when you don't have any authority to do so. Divorce is like this. You will want to control the entire process when the reality of the situation is that you can work yourself at best, and that's about it. That's ok. Your inclination will be like everyone else's to try and manage all aspects of your case. When you understand that this can't be done, you can start to think clearly about the topic and manage to accomplish your goals.

Think ahead (far ahead) when divorcing as a doctor

When people think of doctors, after they think of how difficult it is to become one, I think most people start to consider how much money most doctors earn relative to the average person walking down the street. I understand that pay varies based on your specialty, but overall, doctors do make substantially more than the average income earner in our country. This usually means at least two things: you have more property that is potentially going to be divided in your divorce and potentially more debt that will also be divided.

You cannot control this once you get to the point in your marriage where divorce is coming up. However, there are steps that you can take to avoid having to negotiate through these issues during a divorce. I'm talking about creating a premarital or marital property agreement before the divorce even becomes a possibility. Let's spend some time discussing these documents, what they are, how you can create them, and what they contain. After that, we can discuss what situations may lead you to consider entering into one of these agreements.

Premarital and post-marital property agreements

When we talk about premarital property agreements, we are talking about a document that you and your fiancé can negotiate over before you are even married. Before you knee-deep in marriage, you can seek to protect property, determine community property, and layout the terms of alimony. This creates a situation where you can avoid negotiating over this sort of subject matter when you are knee-deep in a divorce. Why not approach these topics with a clear mind?

Consider what can happen when you go to medical school. Medical school is long and complicated, and if that weren't enough, it is also expensive. Many people take out student loans to make their way through medical school. You may count yourself among those people who did that. Depending on the school you attended, these loans may total up to $200,000 or more. Becoming a young doctor doesn't necessarily mean that you will begin to earn a great deal of money immediately. Instead, you may end up practicing for a few years until you start to make "doctor" money. You may have to hold your breath for a while and continue living like a student until then.

Unless that's not the choice you made, you may have grown tired of waiting to make purchases and instead opted to buy the big house and nice car immediately after you became a doctor. That's your prerogative, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, your choices have consequences. If those choices were to go to medical school on loans and then finance a lifestyle for yourself after school, then loans will be a part of your future, at least for the time being. Marrying into loans is a tough ask for many people. For that reason, a premarital property agreement may make sense for you.

The premarital property agreement takes you and your fiancé. It puts you in a position to determine what property belongs in either of your separate estates or your community estate. The community estate stands to be divided up in your divorce if you were to get one. Your estates cannot be divided in a divorce. Therefore, if you want to protect your spouse from liability on your debts, then a premarital property agreement can take care of that for you.

Another circumstance where you may want to shield your spouse from debt is regarding loans taken out for your business. Young doctors are sometimes asked to buy into their medical practice as a partner. Without having much cash in the bank, you may be presented with a decision to make: forego the opportunity to buy into the medical practice you work for or obtain a loan to do so. If you choose to take out a loan to take advantage of this opportunity, you need to be aware of any consequences that this may have for your spouse. Working with a family law attorney before you even get married may be the most prudent decision to make. Learning what your future spouse may be responsible for and what they will not be liable for potentially offers you a glimpse as to whether or not a premarital property agreement may make sense for your family.

A marital property agreement functions in basically the same way as a premarital property agreement. The significant difference, which you may have guessed at this time, is that a marital property agreement comes into play after you are already married. The document can look very similar to a premarital property agreement and may ultimately accomplish the same things. Maybe you were uncomfortable in negotiating this document before marriage but are more comfortable now. Or, you may have had some circumstances arise in the union that requires you to move forward towards this type of arrangement.

This is one method to avoid a protracted and complex divorce case. You may be beyond the point of entering into these types of negotiations with your spouse. That doesn't mean that you can't utilize the principles undertaken to work through a marital property agreement with your spouse right now. Let's finish out today's blog post by discussing how you can negotiate your way through divorce rather than litigate your way through a divorce.

A doctor's divorce can be worked through using communication.

Communication may have been the weakest part of your marriage. Fortunately, you can work on this skill with your attorney to make it the saving grace of your divorce. First of all, communicating with your spouse does not mean that you have to see eye to eye with them on your case or any particular issue. Instead, all it means is that you are committing to be engaging in conversation and negotiation. Allowing for the opportunity to work through these issues together is much preferable to resorting to going to court at every opportunity. This will save you time, money, and stress.

Part of this understands that even if your spouse did not work during your marriage, they would likely be in line to receive a substantial amount of your marital property in the divorce. That's how community property works. Your spouse gets the benefit of your working life by supporting you and being married to you. What if your spouse worked as a waitress while you attended medical school? Or what if your husband took care of the house and children while you put in long hours as a doctor? This counts for something in Texas. Do not go into your divorce assuming that you will receive all the marital property because you earned most of the income- or even all of it. You will be disappointed. It can take a lot of effort to reverse this disappointment and instead face the case with a yellow eye.

Finally, it is reasonable to want to protect assets when you approach a divorce. There is a belief in some people that there are methods that an attorney can employ to shield (hide) support in a divorce so that they are not subject to division. I can tell you that this is not reality, either. To do so would be unethical and would be contrary to temporary orders in any divorce case in Texas. Do not go into your divorce assuming that some sleight of hand can result in the protecting assets that are most desirable to you.

That does not mean that you have to kiss your assets goodbye in a divorce necessarily. Before you get too down in the dumps, consider the legal, ethical steps you can take to protect assets as a physician when going through a divorce. This may involve working with an investment advisor to create things like nonqualified benefit plans through your medical practice that funds over several years. This way, you can make income tax savings and protect your assets in a divorce simultaneously. Low-value investments for a short period can then spring up in value later on. Thus, you may be able to shelter your asset temporarily during the divorce only to see it increase years after the divorce is in your rearview mirror. Of course, you should speak with an investment advisor and a financial planner before undertaking these types of decisions.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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