As a divorce attorney, you are well aware of the importance of accurate income assessments in alimony and child support cases. Whether your client is seeking financial assistance or defending against a spousal or child support claim, the parties’ respective earning capacity is an essential consideration.
Accordingly, in this article, we discuss how a vocational expert in divorce cases can be an invaluable resource to you and your client when either party’s income is in question.
The Role of Vocational Experts in Divorces
The job of a vocational expert (VE) is to determine how much a person can earn based on their education, training, skills, employment history, and the local job market. A vocational expert in divorce cases can provide the court with an accurate assessment of each spouse’s present and future earning capacity in divorce cases. They can also assist a judge by documenting relevant information regarding current economic conditions and local job markets.
Vocational experts may be particularly beneficial in cases involving high-earning spouses or a significant disparity in the parties’ incomes where there is the potential for substantial and long-term alimony or child support. Because judges must base these support awards on the parties’ incomes, it is essential to provide the court with sufficient information to assess the parties’ respective earnings accurately.
How Vocational Experts Assist in Divorce Cases
Experienced divorce attorneys understand the pressures their clients face when their legal fees start adding up. If you represent a party in a contentious divorce in which alimony or child support is at issue, your client may be reluctant to add an expert’s fee to their mounting bills. However, a knowledgeable VE can actually save your client a significant amount of money over time. The cost of a vocational expert will likely be significantly less than the cost of ongoing alimony or child support payments that are grossly above or below what they should be due to inaccurate income calculations.
For example, suppose you represent the lower-earning spouse and the higher-income spouse suddenly switches to a lesser paying job, reduces their hours, or quits work entirely. In that case, a VE can provide a detailed analysis of that party’s actual earning capacity. The expert can assess the spouse’s ability to work and generate income based on various factors, including age, health, education, prior work experience, and prevailing economic conditions. A judge can then establish the alimony or child support award on what that spouse should be making rather than their actual documented income.
A VE can also assist if a spouse changed jobs or reduced their earnings to prevent the court from ordering them to pay a fair amount of alimony or child support. Vocational experts are trained to identify a party’s attempts to avoid their financial obligations in a divorce by deliberately deferring or reducing their income.
A VE could also help you assess your client’s earning potential. If the client left a career to raise the couple’s children or assist their spouse in his or her career, it might be unreasonable for them to reenter the workforce and immediately become self-supporting. A knowledgeable vocational expert in divorce cases can advise what jobs might be realistically available to your client and at what pay rate. The VE could also inform you of the additional education or training your client may need to enter their chosen employment field.
The Value of a Vocational Examination Report
When a vocational expert is hired to assist in a divorce, they will typically interview the spouse whose income is at issue, administer vocational testing, and research the local job market and relevant salary data. The VE will also consider any additional education or training the spouse may need to enter or reenter the workforce. The expert may then compile their conclusions and opinions in a written document often referred to as a vocational examination report.
Within a vocational examination report, the expert may do the following:
1. Evaluate a spouse’s current and future employability and earning capacity
2. Assess the genuineness of a spouse’s efforts to seek employment
3. Determine the cost and duration of the education and training needed for future job opportunities
4. Estimate the time necessary for a spouse to get a job based on the current labor market
5. Demonstrate the impact of a spouse’s lack of education and training on their ability to become employed
6. Ascertain to what degree factors such as age and health may limit a spouse’s employability
A vocational examination report can be helpful to you and your client not only in a divorce trial but also in informal settlement negotiations and formal court pretrial conferences.
Consider Retaining a Vocational Expert in Divorce Cases
While a vocational expert’s opinion does not bind a judge, it can be highly persuasive. The examination report and testimony of a credible vocational expert can significantly impact the outcome of an alimony or child support case. Whether you represent the spouse asked to pay support or the spouse seeking it, arming yourself with as much information as possible regarding both parties’ current and potential incomes will help to ensure the best possible financial outcome for your client.
The Experts at OAS Can Help You Determine Appropriate Alimony And Child Support For Your Divorce Clients
Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS) is one of the top companies providing vocational experts in divorce cases. In addition, we have been involved in some of the landmark cases in using vocational experts in divorce cases in New York and New Jersey.
Many attorneys fail to realize the importance of properly documenting damages in a case. Sometimes, all emphasis and energies are placed on the initial hurdle of liability, and not on damages. A good damages preparation may help to strengthen a case once liability has been established. To date, vocational experts have been used in a wide variety of cases. Their expertise can benefit personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability, workers’ compensation, matrimonial, age discrimination, and wrongful termination cases.
The experts at Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS) have over forty years of experience documenting the income potential and employment capacity of those with wrongful termination cases, as well as with the underemployed, unemployed, and disabled spouses in many types of cases.
OAS specializes in working with the plaintiff or defense attorney to assist in objectively documenting the economics in a case. From the initial referral to the trial testimony, OAS works with the retaining attorney so that the vocational assessment of the case can be objectively and efficiently presented.
We strongly believe in the importance of a clear and understandable presentation of the facts. OAS is the leading provider of vocational expert services.
OAS is your vocational expert nationwide, with offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California.