Can Your Professional License Be Impacted Over Your Spouse's Misconduct?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Feb 20, 2023 | 0 Comments

As a working licensed professional, you have worked hard to earn your credentials and maintain the trust of your clients. But could something you're not even directly responsible for, such as the misconduct of your spouse or partner, somehow result in disciplinary action against you?

The short answer is yes. While not a common cause of licensing issues, in certain circumstances, depending on the kind of misconduct and other factors, a professional licensing board or other regulatory body could potentially open an investigation into your license over a spouse's alleged misconduct.

This issue is underscored by a recent news headline in which a pilot for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was placed on "modified duty" after his wife, a pediatrician, was arrested on allegations she was involved in a COVID-19 vaccination fraud scheme. He was forced to relinquish his gun and badge, and he faces the possibility of losing his retirement benefits. He is suing the NYPD for reinstatement of his status on the grounds that he was not involved in his wife's dealings, nor was he implicated legally.

While this news story deals primarily with an employer-employee dispute, it does demonstrate that at a professional level, sometimes a person's activities can reflect badly on their spouse, and vice versa.

Why/How Can a Spouse's Behavior Impact Your License?

At first glance, this idea seems highly unfair. After all, can we really be penalized professionally by a licensing board over an allegation that our spouse committed some form of wrongdoing? Is that even legal?

To answer these questions, we must understand that when it comes to professional licensing, we're not talking about criminal prosecution--and if your license comes under scrutiny, you're not on trial for a crime for which you must be proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." Rather, state licensing boards are concerned with protecting public safety and maintaining public trust, and they have broad authority to investigate any situation in which they feel public safety or public trust may have been violated. Because it's assumed that married couples know what their spouse is doing, then if one spouse gets into professional or legal hot water, it raises the question as to what the other person knew or whether they were involved. It is in this "grey area" that, at least on rare occasions, the actions of your spouse could impact your professional license.

When Might a Licensing Board Investigate You Over Your Spouse's Conduct?

Let's be clear: this is a highly unusual situation that rarely arises outside of extreme circumstances. But it's important to understand that certain behaviors would be considered more serious than others. In most cases, the board would be looking at one of the following two key issues:

  • Whether you are implicated in your spouse's misconduct. For example, if your spouse was accused of engaging in criminal activities (such as financial fraud or tax evasion) that could reflect badly on your professional reputation, a licensing board might investigate further to determine if there is any direct nexus between the alleged conduct and your field of practice, or if you were an accessory to the crime.
  • Whether your spouse's misconduct impacts your ability to serve in your profession. In other words, whether or not you were directly involved, does your spouse's alleged misconduct cast doubt in any way on your ability to do your job safely? For example, if you and your spouse are both physicians in the same clinic, and your spouse is accused of "pill mill" activities, the licensing board may investigate to see whether this incident affects your ability to practice--even if you had no knowledge of your spouse's activities.

Could Your License Be Revoked Over Spousal Misconduct?

It's rare but possible. In the vast majority of cases, your state licensing board would only consider revoking your license if the preponderance of the evidence showed that you likely were a willing accomplice in your spouse's misconduct or if their misconduct caused you to perform your duties in an unsafe manner. Any investigation would be to consider whether your spouse's misdeeds had any connection to your own practice.

Protecting Your Career in Cases of Spousal Misconduct

While it's true that the actions of your spouse can have an impact on your career, it need not be a devastating or irreversible one. If your spouse is accused of wrongdoing, either at a criminal or a professional level, and it raises any questions regarding your own license, the intervention of an experienced license defense attorney can set the record straight and avert any unfair repercussions. If you are a licensed professional in New Jersey or New York whose license is under scrutiny for any reason, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can help. Contact us today for an appointment.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience fighting for the futures of his professional clients nationwide. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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