Doctors and Marriage: Should You Have a Prenup?

Dennis G. Murray, MA

Disclosures

April 19, 2017

In This Article

Introduction

Despite the horror stories about ugly breakups among doctors, physicians in the United States are actually more likely to stay with their spouses than other white-collar professionals, including lawyers and other non-healthcare workers. Among healthcare professionals in particular, with the exception of pharmacists, physicians are less likely to get divorced than dentists, nurses, and healthcare executives.

These findings, which were published in February 2015 in the BMJ,[1] included responses from nearly 49,000 doctors.

While this is certainly encouraging news given the very demanding schedules many physicians keep, the reality is that any divorce can prove to be an expensive proposition for everyone involved.

But there's a way to lessen the financial pain of a breakup, if not the emotional sting: a prenuptial agreement, or a "prenup."

Take the case of a 45-year-old surgeon in New Jersey who was preparing for his upcoming wedding. This would be his second marriage after having been divorced for 7 years. His colleague reminded him about a former partner who had lost half of his sizable investment in his medical practice during his divorce. Disturbed, the surgeon called his attorney to ask his advice. The lawyer's response was unequivocal: "Ask her to sign a prenup."

While no one enters a marriage expecting to split up, the reality is that almost 1 in 3 first marriages ends in divorce -- as do nearly one half of second or third ones. Your best opportunity to protect yourself is before you tie the knot. Otherwise, you may find yourself embroiled in a legal battle with dueling experts trying to value your practice both at the time of your marriage and your later divorce.

To be sure, few things throw cold water on a courtship more than the mention of a prenup. But as a high-earner -- or a potential high earner -- it may make sense to try to protect as many of your assets as the law, through a carefully considered prenuptial agreement, will allow.

Before you dismiss the idea as a romance-killer, consider that your future spouse may be bringing a great deal of assets to the marriage and may also want such a contract for his or her own protection as well.

Let's examine the pros and cons of prenups for physicians and their betrothed, using 2 basic scenarios.

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