The doctor's guide to divorce

By Jules Murtha | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published February 28, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Despite common anecdotes about high divorce rates among doctors, a 2015 BMJ study shows that doctors face a 24.3% chance of divorce, which is less than that of non-healthcare workers.

  • There is a link between divorce among doctors and burnout, which affects the well-being of physicians and their families.

  • Doctors dealing with divorce may be aided by financial, emotional, and spiritual help from familial and work insurance resources.

Among the many stressors physicians face throughout their lives and careers, divorce is a significant one. Some doctors’ professional obligations pose challenges to family dynamics, which could lead to major life decisions like divorce.

A 2015 BMJ study found that the divorce probability for physicians is 24.3%. While this may seem high, it’s actually lower than that for non-physicians. Nevertheless, divorce among doctors, as for others, involves a period of  mourning, the need for help, and decisions on priority-setting.

Complications in divorce among doctors

Divorce isn’t a pleasant experience, but the nature of the medical career adds to the difficulties when it occurs among physicians.

"Divorce will derail your best laid financial plans even when you’re part of a dual-income couple."

Toyin M. Falusi, MD

For one, divorce can damage a doctor’s finances. As described by Toyin M. Falusi, MD, on 

“Divorce will derail your best laid financial plans even when you’re part of a dual-income couple,” Falusi wrote. “If you are the sole earner, asset division and hefty spousal support really puts a gash in your reserves.”

This could cool a physician’s desire to find another partner. Jaded by the financial loss, on top of separation from a spouse, doctors often don’t want to risk the consequences of another divorce.

Divorce can also affect a doctor’s practice, according to Bryan Fagan’s family law blog. Some practices may be subject to valuation and division in a divorce. An attorney can help physicians navigate both. Circumstances of each case will determine who gets what, if there is to be any division. 

In addition to financial and business issues, doctors often fail to take the time they need to emotionally process a divorce. Accustomed to putting others before themselves, physicians may struggle to tend to their own wounds during this painful transition—a reality that hurts the grieving process, according to Falusi.

Five guidelines for doctors navigating divorce

For doctors who feel overwhelmed by the process of divorce and need guidance, consider these insights:

  1. Remember that you’re not a failure. Some doctors may feel that the failure of their marriage indicates a larger personal shortcoming. But that’s not accurate, according to Falusi's KevinMD article. Overall, 40% of marriages end in divorce. Choosing to accept and embrace the process can lead to personal growth. People do heal and start anew.

  2. Allow yourself to mourn. Take time to process the major changes that divorce entails. You could reduce your work hours, or take time off. This may be the opportune time to plan that vacation you’ve been longing for. Resist the urge to numb out. Instead, seek support from those who are also on a divorce journey, and consider finding a therapist who can help guide you through the highs and lows along the way. 

  3. Ask for help. According to KevinMD, now is the time to pack up the superhero cape and allow yourself be human. Use available resources, such as programs offered through your insurance company, as well as family support, to take care of the various dimensions of your situation: emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and financial. While you may tend to push your limits in other circumstances, a divorce shouldn’t be one of them. Cultivate a greater awareness of your well-being, and honor your needs.

  4. Prioritize accordingly. If you have children, put them first, says Bryan Fagan in his family law blog. Regardless of how secure you are in your relationships with your kids, give them some extra time and love throughout the transition. Negotiate with your spouse on visitation and possession orders. Finally, hire an attorney with experience in business ownership to help settle practice valuations and divisions.

  5. Keep in mind that relationships are important. The quality of your relationships directly influences your quality of life, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Moving forward, try not to put work above all else. Wealth, professional recognition, and climbing your occupational ladder are all wonderful—but they can’t replace those you love. Remember this when you start building new relationships.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology also encourages physicians going through divorce to keep their experience in mind when a colleague is divorcing. Instead of judging those working through immense loss, be compassionate. Extend an empathetic hand to those in need.

What this means for you

Even though doctors are less likely than other professionals to divorce, there’s still a 24.3% likelihood of it happening. The medical career sometimes complicates family dynamics. If you have children, your divorce needs to first address their needs. Finding an attorney to help navigate the legal and business aspects of divorce may prove fruitful for physicians. Finally, to handle divorce as swiftly and seamlessly as possible, doctors must take advantage of their resources for optimal physical, financial, and emotional health. 


  1. Daily JA. Divorce among physicians and medical trainees. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2019;73(4):521-524.

  2. Falusi T. 10 reasons why divorce is hard for doctors and 5 tips to make it easier. KevinMD. July 10, 2020.

  3. Hochschild E. Are doctors doomed to divorce?. Bryan Fagan, Family Law Blog. March 20, 2021.

  4. Ly DP, Seabury SA, Jena AB. Divorce among physicians and other healthcare professionals in the United States: analysis of census survey data. BMJ. 2015;350:h706

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