Divorce Attorneys for Doctors in Arizona.

A doctor in Arizona will face unique challenges when facing a divorce or legal separation due to their demanding work schedule, a high net worth, a higher income, and possibly the impact of owning a medical practice will have on the division of assets in a divorce.

A study published in the British Medical Journal (“BMJ“)found divorce rates for doctors to be 24.3%, which is much less than other professions. However, a doctor who is going through a divorce will face some unique issues. Some of the more challenging aspects a doctor going through a divorce or legal separation in Arizona will face include:

  • Payment of spousal maintenance to your spouse;
  • Valuation and division of assets, such as a medical practice, investment accounts, and retirement accounts;
  • Child custody arrangements;
  • Payment of child support and possibly providing support for your children to attend a college or university;
  • Payment of expert witness fees for your case; and
  • Payment of your spouse’s attorney fees in some cases.

All of these expenses can build up pretty quickly if you are not prepared. You need to be prepared to ensure a fair agreement is reached in your divorce or legal separation.

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Things Every Doctor Should Know About Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

Our divorce attorneys for doctors in Arizona have found most doctors earn a substantially higher income than their spouse. In many cases, a doctor’s spouse may not work at all or works for their spouse’s medical practice. A significant disparity in income between spouses as well as the higher standard of living most doctors and their spouses enjoy raises the issue of the payment of spousal maintenance.

There will be a discussion concerning how much, if any, spousal maintenance should be paid and how long that spousal maintenance should last.

You should speak in depth with an experienced Arizona divorce attorney about whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in your case and, if so, about:

  • Will temporary spousal maintenance need to be paid during the divorce or legal separation;
  • The expectations the judge will have for your spouse to contribute to their own financial support;
  • The steps, if any, your spouse has made to get a job to help support themselves;
  • Whether you should hire a vocational expert to evaluate and provide an expert opinion on the types of jobs your spouse could secure to provide for their own support;
  • The income your spouse will receive from investing his or her assets;
  • The impact contributing to your children’s 529 educational plan and paying their college expenses in the future may have on spousal maintenance;
  • The impact your spouse receiving a paid off house in a divorce settlement may have on spousal maintenance;
  • The potential to negotiate a lump sum payout in lieu of monthly spousal maintenance payments;

For a much more extensive discussion of how alimony impacts a doctors divorce or legal separation, you should check out our information on what doctors should know about alimony in Arizona.

Things Every Doctor Should Know About Division of Assets in a Divorce in Arizona

A Spouse May Not Unilaterally Change Joint Property to Community Property

Physicians typically have a higher net worth than the average person going through a divorce. A higher net worth may mitigate the amount of spousal maintenance to be paid or may even eliminate spousal maintenance entirely.

Our divorce attorneys for doctors have found that one of the biggest areas of concern for many doctors is the valuation of their medical practice. If you own a medical practice you should consider the following:

  • Whether you owned the medical practice before or after your marriage. If you owned your medical practice before marriage, whether the practice has increased in value during your marriage and the reason for that increase in value;
  • Whether you are the sole owner of a medical practice or you have partners in that business;
  • Whether you should hire a business appraiser to value your practice or whether you should obtain a “comp” of the value of your practice from a business broker experienced in selling medical practices, as well as whether that expert should be your hired expert or should be hired jointly by you and your spouse;
  • Understanding the documents you may have to disclose to your spouse, as well as how to avoid violating any confidentiality and/or non-disclosure agreements you may have signed relating to the business and how to maintain the confidentiality privilege you and your business have with your Certified Public Accountant;
  • How you are going to find the time to accumulate all the information and documentation you need to provide your attorney to determine the value of your practice and the amount you earn from that practice, as well as whether you should assign a trusted person to accumulate that information and documentation;
  • How your retirement and investment assets will be divided;
  • How the division of all of your assets will impact the issue of spousal maintenance;

Things Every Doctor Should Know About Child Custody in Arizona

Most physician have a very busy work schedule. Although that may be great for your practice, it can pose a problem when trying to spend time with your children which creates additional difficulties in coming to an agreement regarding custody of your children.

If your spouse is a stay at home parent, he or she will likely feel entitled to have more time with the children after the divorce or legal separation; although that does not need to be the case.

Having a busy schedule does not mean you need to forfeit spending frequent and meaningful time with your children. If you need to balance the needs of your practice with being a parent, you should consider the following:

  • Strive to reach a child custody agreement that provides flexibility in each parents time spent with the children;
  • Avoid a child custody agreement that requires a Right of First Refusal if you can provide for your childcare provider, such as a family member, to spend time with your children until you return;
  • Include a provision that allows you schedule make up parenting time if you are unable to see the children during your normal parenting time;
  • Consider adding additional periods of parenting time with your children during the summer, Spring Break, Fall Break, and Winter Break periods;

Things Doctors Should Know About Child Support in Arizona

Arizona uses an “Income Shares Model” to calculate child support. This simply means the court will base child support on, among other things, your respective incomes. However, there is a point where the combined gross income of the parties “caps out” on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.

As of the writing of this information, the guidelines “cap out” when the parents’ combined gross incomes exceed $30,000.00 per month. If your combined gross incomes exceed $30,000.00 a month, the court can “deviate” or increase your child support obligation to account for the fact more funds are available to provide financial support for your children.

If you are determining the appropriate amount of child support to be paid or you are facing a child support deviation or increase in child support because your combined gross incomes exceed the $30,000.00 “cap” in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, you should think about the following:

  • Consider agreeing to invest in a 529 college fund for your children in lieu of paying an increased amount of child support;
  • Consider asking your spouse to also agree to contribute to a 529 college plan for your children or, alternatively, suggesting to the court that you pay less spousal maintenance because your spousal refuses to contribute to your children’s 529 account;
  • If you do create a college fund for your children, try to reach an agreement on what those funds may be used for such as dormitory fess, food, utilities, insurance, car payments, tuition, and other college fees. The key is to be very specific on the use of college funds to avoid potential conflict in the future;
  • Be prepared to demonstrate that a deviation in child support is unnecessary given the lifestyle and needs your child enjoyed during the marriage;

Although we mention a college fund in the context of a potential child support deviation, an Arizona judge does not have the authority to order either you or your spouse to pay for your children’s college education.

However, it may make sense for you to raise the issue of the payment to a college fund and payment of college expenses in the context of avoiding or minimizing a deviation increase in child support and/or a potential decrease in a spousal maintenance award to your spouse.

Most doctors earn a substantially higher income than their spouse. In many cases, a doctor’s spouse may not work at all or works within their spouses medical practice in some capacity.

Your attorney should understand the interrelationship between your income, the assets being divided in the divorce, the payment of spousal maintenance, and the amount of child support being paid.

It is important you gather all the important information you need to know to successfully navigate your divorce from an attorney who has handled numerous divorce cases involving doctors or their spouses in a divorce in Arizona.

The attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have many years of experience successfully representing doctors and their spouses in Arizona divorce and other family law matters.

Our attorneys have over 100 years combined experience in Arizona divorce and family law cases and have received the Us News & World Report distinction of “Best Lawyers – Best Law Firms” for their Arizona divorce practice.

Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your divorce or family law case around today.

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