When calculating spousal support, the Court reviews several factors, including the parties’ earning capacity. But what if a party is willingly unemployed or underemployed in an attempt to maximize spousal support? Vocational Evaluations can be utilized to assist the Court in determining a party’s earning capacity and subsequently, the amount of spousal support.
A Vocational Evaluation is an assessment by a vocational expert of a party’s ability to earn income. The evaluator’s job is to determine a party’s earning capacity, meaning what they could earn, by reviewing the evaluated party’s age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history, and available employment opportunities. Then a report is prepared which contains the evaluator’s impressions, findings from records and interviews, the results of any testing, and a report of potential matching jobs and their pay rates.
If you think your spouse is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, a Vocational Evaluation is appropriate if you want the Court to impute income to your spouse. Imputing income is when the Court can assign an amount of income to your spouse when calculating support.
While the Court is not required to follow the opinion of a vocational expert, the evaluation tends to be very persuasive because it’s an expert’s objective opinion. Although the Court cannot force your spouse to get a job or a higher-earning job, it can find that your spouse can earn more and impute income to your spouse when calculating support.
Most often, the higher-earning spouse benefits from using a vocational expert as it could ultimately save the support payor a great deal of money by reducing support payments. For example, if your spouse was a stay-at-home parent during marriage and wants to remain at home even though they are very well educated and the children are older teenagers, a vocational evaluation is appropriate to prove to the Court it should impute income to your spouse, thereby reducing your support obligation. However, Vocational Evaluations are also utilized by the lower-earning spouse to help increase support.
Unless the other party agrees to voluntarily submit to a vocational evaluation, you must file a motion with the Court requesting an order for it. These motions are frequently granted.
If you believe your spouse is unemployed or underemployed, contact The Reape-Rickett Law Firm today at (888) 851-1611 to consult with a family law attorney to help you determine if a vocational evaluation could benefit you.