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Prepare to divide your assets through solid negotiations

You went to school for years to become a surgeon, and during that time, your spouse did support you. You worked long hours, and your relationship fell to the side as you focused on your career.

Now, when you're finally where you want to be, your spouse has decided to end things. Too much time has caused you to grow apart. It's not an uncommon story, but it's one that you're worried could negatively affect you, financially as well as emotionally.

Know how to protect yourself

Depending on a variety of factors, you could be looking at paying out spousal support and giving up 50 percent of your marital assets to your spouse thanks to California's laws. You've worked hard to get where you are, but now that you're there, this divorce could threaten your financial stability and significantly impact your ability to develop your own practice or have funds free for the developments you want to work on.

California does have a 50-50 property division standard, as it promotes equal distribution during a divorce. However, if you and your spouse can work out an agreement, you may be able to do better than that. Your attorney can help you negotiate based on your expenses and intentions in the future.

For instance, if you and your spouse have no children but your spouse supported you through medical school, you may be able to negotiate a short-term alimony plan to pay for your spouse to go back to school for a new career or just to pay them back for their generosity during your marriage.

In exchange, you might ask to keep the apartment you have or the home you've purchased close to the hospital. There are ways to negotiate and manipulate the 50-50 rule to your benefit, even if it means giving up certain assets or paying out more financially to your spouse for a short time.

The good news is that only marital assets get split in divorce. You should establish the date of separation quickly as well as identifying the assets you had prior to your marriage. Anything you owned before marriage is not included in the division of your assets.

It can be hard to protect yourself, and it may be difficult to handle a divorce on top of a heavy workload. Your attorney can help protect your interests, so you can focus on your patients and career.

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