Divorce is a long, complicated process, and you may need to take steps that are outside of the norm. Vocational evaluations can have a powerful effect on support obligations. So, what are they, and should you request one?
What Is a Vocational Examination?
While divorce can change your financial situation, California courts want to ensure that both spouses can maintain the marital standard of living and both parents support their child(ren). What that means for you may be entirely different than what it means for another couple going through the same thing. Ultimately, your post-divorce financial situation depends entirely on your unique circumstances and the court’s approach to your case.
In cases where one spouse or parent is not working or is not earning up to their potential, the higher earning partner can request a Vocational Examination of the unemployed or underemployed party in need of support.
Vocational experts specialize in performing evaluations that reveal the current and future employability of a spouse or parent. This evaluation aims to determine what steps (if any) are necessary to prepare the spouse or parent for employment, which will allow them to maintain the marital standard of living and provide for their child(ren).
Vocational examinations are never intended to criticize or shame you for not working or for periods of underemployment due to tending to domestic duties. Ultimately, the voc expert wants to see where you are, provide you with jobs you can obtain now, and what you need to obtain even higher paying jobs.
For the higher earning spouses or parents who feel the pressure of maintaining a non-working partner, the voc evaluation can be used to impute income (assign an earning capacity) to the supported party and give the supporting party a discount in the total support amount owed.
It is a tool that can help both parties, whether the supported or supporting party.
If the supporting party asks the supported party to submit to a voc eval, and the supported party outright refuses, the supported party may be sanctioned. The supporting party can force the issue by filing a motion (RFO or Request for Orders) and requesting attorney fees from the supported party’s support. It is incumbent on the supported party to narrow the terms of the evaluation—for example, when will it be made available, will the evaluator assist with interview skills, resume-writing, finding educational or training opportunities. Will the report be admissible in court? To what extent?
Vocational examinations are disfavored when supported parties are of retirement age, are permanently disabled, or when they have young children or dependents with disabilities that infringe on the supported person’s ability to work full-time.
Evaluators typically look at the following:
- Level of education (high school diploma, GED, college degree, master’s, etc.)
- Employment history, if any
- Time spent at home or unemployed
- Education needed to procure a job
- Current job market and trends
- Whether there are any barriers to employment (criminal history, learning challenges, debilitating medical conditions, etc.)
Should I Ask for a Vocational Evaluation?
First of all, an examination can eliminate any guesswork pertaining to earning capacity. Your ability to make a living plays a significant role in the amount of support you pay and the potential for the support you might receive.
The amount spent on a monthly support award, such as long-term or permanent spousal support, can greatly exceed the price for a vocational evaluation, therefore, while it may seem costly at the front end, it is cost-saving over the span of the support period. The time spent with a vocational evaluator for the supported party can result in job opportunities providing freedom from depending on the supporting party. It can be a win for both parties.
Another benefit of a voc exam is that it can streamline divorce and child support proceedings and prevent future requests for modifications. These evaluations prove to the court once and for all what your earning capacity is to make an informed decision regarding your divorce settlement.
Request a Vocational Evaluation Today
At Kraft Miles, A Law Corporation, we believe in providing support and trustworthy counsel to our clients. Whether you need a vocational examination or guidance with another part of your divorce, our team is here to help.
With over 60 years of experience, our firm has the knowledge you need to pursue a favorable divorce settlement. Don’t leave your case to chance – contact Kraft Miles, A Law Corporation today.