Divorce cases in California are difficult enough, but when one or both spouses are medical doctors, dissolving the marriage and dividing the marital property is particularly complicated.  A thriving medical or dental practice is a very valuable asset that required an enormous amount of time, money, and effort to build.  In many divorce cases involving medical professionals, there may also be prenuptial or postnuptial agreements in dispute.  If your spouse has filed or has threatened to file for divorce and you or your spouse is a physician, dentist, or any other medical doctor, you must act quickly to secure legal rights and interests.

According to reported statistics, dentists and medical doctors have a very high divorce rate due to the long work hours and high-stress levels.  Divorces that involve significant income and assets can be extremely complex due to the complicated division of marital assets/property, alimony/spousal support, and child custody/support.  These types of “high-net-worth” divorce cases demand a tremendous amount of pre-planning and strategy to secure a favorable outcome.

Reimbursement Rights for “Community Contributions to Education or Training” in California Divorce Cases

In California, if you attended medical school, became a licensed doctor, and then opened a medical practice after you were married, the economic value of your practice could be subject to division during a divorce.  If you already owned a medical practice and then you were married, your medical practice’s increased value during the marriage could be subject to division during a divorce.  In the case where you had a medical practice before the marriage, if your spouse gave up their career to enable you to advance your career or your spouse worked at the medical practice without pay, or at a reduced pay rate, your spouse could be entitled to reimbursement rights under Family Code Section 2641’s “community contributions to education or training,” or receive a share of the practice’s value during the divorce.

Two other important issues that doctors face in California divorce cases are when they own part of a medical practice or when the non-physician spouse helps them earn their education, medical degree, or professional license.  In these circumstances, the non-physician spouse could feel entitled to compensation because they helped their spouse achieve their professional goal and helped them obtain a valuable professional license.

Community Property Laws in California

According to California Family Law, all property and assets earned by a married couple during their marriage or purchased using marital funds are deemed community property.  This means both spouses have an equal ownership interest in the asset.  Community property typically includes bank accounts, real estate, stock options, bonds, retirement accounts, family businesses, pensions, trusts, precious metals, jewelry, and other marital assets.  In a doctor’s divorce, a medical practice could be deemed community property.  According to California Family Law, community property is owned by both spouses equally and will be divided equally during the divorce.  Therefore, if a medical practice is included in a couple’s community property, a complete financial analysis and appraisal of the medical practice should be conducted to prevent one party from being overcompensated.

“Community Property Contributions” in California Divorce Cases

In a divorce case where one spouse is a doctor, the spouse’s professional education and license are not considered community property assets.  A degree or professional license cannot be divided up during a divorce.  Therefore, the non-doctor spouse could be entitled to compensation called “community property contributions.”

If you are married to a doctor, or you are a doctor with substantial assets that you gained before or during your marriage, and you are facing a divorce, you must speak with an experienced, high-net-worth divorce attorney who understands your specific challenges right away.

Our divorce attorneys’ primary goal is to help you protect your financial interests while helping you maintain control of your medical practice.  We will also help guide you through other critical divorce-related issues, such as alimony/spousal support, child support, child custody, and visitation rights.

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