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    Top 7 reasons women doctors need prenups

    Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Rebekah Bernard, MD, a family physician at Gulf Coast Direct Primary Care in Fort Myers, Florida. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Medical Economics or UBM Medica.

     

    Lady doctors, if you’ve taken Beyonce’s advice to heart and “put a ring on it,” then I have another message for you: Get a prenupRebekah Bernard, MD

    I know, I know, there is nothing romantic about prenuptial agreements. Prenups require a visit to an attorney, cost money to have drawn up, and worst of all, make you think about unpleasant things like relationships failing right when you are supposed to be celebrating your happy moment.

     

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    I’m sorry to be the one to throw cold water on the bridal shower, but here are the facts. Women physicians are at a higher risk for divorce than male physicians, and our rate of divorce actually increases with the number of hours that we work.[i]  

    In other words, the harder you work at your job and the more money you earn, the higher the chance that you are going to end up divorced, and worse, writing an alimony check to your ex. And believe me, that one burns.

    Since we know that we are at a statistically higher chance of divorce, especially if we are hardworking and dedicated, we must protect ourselves by planning ahead and obtaining a prenup before the wedding day. It’s not romantic, but it’s absolutely necessary.

    Jeff Landers, an expert on woman and divorce, points out that every marrying couple is already subject to a default prenuptial agreement—the current state law. He argues that marrying without a prenup is similar to dying without a will. Instead of deciding in advance how you want your assets distributed, your property will instead be subjected to the rules of the state, since “in the eyes of the law, your marriage is a contract, very much like a business arrangement.”[ii] Unfortunately, the laws of the state can be arbitrary, biased or sometimes left to the whim of a judge who might be having a bad day on the morning you show up in court.

     

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    In the average divorce, most state laws will require that marital assets, including your home, bank accounts and retirement plans be split 50-50 between partners. But there are other financial considerations that may be left to the discretion of the court. A divorce judgment can grant temporary or permanent alimony, can declare a medical practice as a marital asset and can even require the higher earning spouse to pay the legal bills for the entire divorce. And if you make it to court without settling, a process which can drag out for months to even years, those legal bills can start to approach numbers that look an awful lot like your medical school debt.

    Next: Top reasons to get a prenup

    Rebekah Bernard MD
    Dr Bernard was a National Health Care Scholar and served at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Immokalee, Florida for six years ...

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    • Anonymous
      Wise advice. My ex husband and I actually had a post-nuptial agreement, drafted a year after we married. Specified no alimony, if you appeal it in case of divorce and lose you need to pay the other's legal fees. Well, the defendant appealed the agreement 6 TIMES and the courts actually allowed him to do that! He lost each time but a divorce that should have taken 2 months and maybe $500 took 2 years and thousands of dollars in legal fees for both of us. Ended up in binding arbitration the night before the trial was scheduled. By then I was completely worn down and exhausted on every level and just wanted it done. All aspects of my health had been adversely affected by the marriage and ensuing divorce proceedings. At the end, we ended up divorced but the arbitrator decided that since each of our legal fees were roughly equal, we would each be responsible for our individual expenses EVEN THOUGH the majority of the costs were due to his contesting the post nup and he was supposed to reimburse those costs to me. Mind you, we had no joint accounts, no children together, and I was already in practice when we met: he did not contribute in any way to my medical school costs. So just be aware that, although I think it's smart to have the pre nuptial agreement in place before you marry, it's no guarantee that it will be smooth sailing if you split.

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