Divorcing physician and some basic practice guidance

1. Encourage the employee/partner to at least let his/her colleagues know the bare basic fact that a divorce is underway (or volunteer to pass the fact along, with permission).  Otherwise his/her behavior is considered extremely strange and it also avoids embarrassing social situations in a close-knit group.  Do your best to respect and encourage in others the level of privacy desired by the divorcing employee/partner.  Remember also that someone talking about divorce is not the same as divorce papers actually being filed--wait until it gets seriously legal before you do much of anything.


2. Prepare for the need for sudden changes in the schedule and the need for flexibility to handle the physician's new demands for court appearances, lawyer meetings, childcare needs.  Be reassuring, as far as possible, about the ability of the practice to handle those needs.  Be realistic and direct about any inability of the practice to handle those needs.


3. Designate one person on your administrative/support team to talk to those people mentioned above who are contacting your practice.  It is not good to have your billing manager saying one thing, you saying another, a receptionist or scheduler yet another thing to spouses, lawyers, and other callers.  Let key personnel (such as an outsourced billing service owner and your bookkeeper or CPA) know about the situation and give instructions on what to do if they receive calls or visits.


4. Get clear with your practice's lawyer and the divorcing employee/partner (and his/her lawyer) about what is and is not legally discoverable in a divorce proceeding in your state.  You will be asked by both sides to copy seemingly every financial document in your warehouse--not all of it is necessary or appropriate by any means.


5. Take with a grain of salt almost anything the divorcing employee/partner says while in the midst of the actual divorce.  Often they are just processing out loud, fantasizing out loud, thinking out loud--and none of it will actually happen.  This applies to statements like "I think I'll just quit cold-turkey and see how he/she likes that." or "I'm planning on just doing locums so I can spend time with my kids."   Let these types of statements go, and give reminders that there is time to think and process, nothing has to be decided today.  Remain calm and positive in attitude, but neutral about specific issues--it's not your job or to anyone's advantage for you to be a divorce lawyer or counselor.  


6. Finally, be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of severe depression and respond appropriately if necessary within your personnel guidelines.

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