Getting the education and training required for a professional degree or license can take 10 to 15 years to complete. Those who stick with it and establish themselves in the professional community can expect to earn a substantial income. It is a long haul for the aspiring professionals and their spouses. This brings up some interesting questions when divorce enters the picture.
It has been said that a professional license “does not have an exchange value or any objective transferable value on an open market. It is personal to the holder. It terminates on death of the holder and is not inheritable. It cannot be assigned, sold, transferred, conveyed, or pledged. An advanced degree is a cumulative product of many years of previous education, combined with diligence and hard work. It may not be acquired by mere expenditure of money. It is simply an intellectual achievement that may potentially assist in the future acquisition of property. In our view, it has none of the attributes of property in the usual sense of that term.” In the state of Florida, a professional license is not considered marital property. However, Florida family court does consider the contribution one spouse makes to the education and career of the other when making decisions about equitable distribution during a divorce.
When one spouse provides financial and other support while the partner pursues a professional degree, the court may believe that the supporting spouse may be entitled to fair compensation, relative to the degree or professional license’s value, or predictive earning capacity. For example: a wife who works and keeps house to help her husband graduate from medical school assumes that she and their children will eventually share in the benefits of his higher earning capacity. Another example: a husband who relocates several times while his wife pursues academic tenure sacrifices his own career opportunities. In a divorce, the court may consider the predictive earning capacity of the professional degree when determining a fair alimony award, especially if the other spouse is not self-supporting or has a much lower income.
If you have questions about how a professional license will be treated in a divorce proceeding in Florida, speak with an experienced divorce attorney. A professional degree is a valuable asset, but there are many factors that can be considered in negotiating a settlement that is fair to both sides.