Editor's Note: 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 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 prenup.
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.