It is becoming increasingly important for individuals going through a divorce to not only “lawyer-up,” but to also have a vocational expert working with their attorney. There are more than just legal considerations in a divorce, and it is risky to leave remaining issues, such as spousal support, up to a trial judge.
What is a Vocational Expert?
A vocational expert evaluates a person’s abilities, interests, education, experience, and other qualifications. They compare that information to the current employment market and assess his or her earning capacity, both immediately and in the long term.
Why is a Vocational Expert needed in a divorce case?
In making an award of spousal support, a court determines the standard of living the dependent spouse, or spouse seeking support, is entitled to, as well as each spouse’s earning capacity and the extent to which the supporting spouse can afford to pay spousal support.
To make these determinations, the court needs to know whether the spouse seeking support is actually working. If they are not, the court imputes income and determines how earning capacity can be used in place of actual earnings. In other words, if the spouse seeking support stayed at home to raise the children, the court decides what that spouses earning capacity is. The court determines the actual earnings of the working spouse.
When a spouse is trying to prove their own earning capacity, as well as the other spouse’s, they need evidence to support their figures. The best evidence of earning capacity is a vocational expert’s testimony. The expert’s evaluation of the spouse’s education, interests, skills, knowledge, and experience helps determine what his or her career options are, and the expert’s labor market analysis assesses the likelihood that the spouse can get a job, and what they can expect to earn. Vocational experts generally have years of documented research specific to geographic areas to help attorneys reach accurate spousal support figures.
In addition to providing an objective evaluation of each spouse’s earning capacity, a vocational expert also provides a second opinion in the event the other spouse hired a vocational expert too. The more evidence presented, the less chance there is the trial judge will make his own independent assessment.
Occupational Assessment Services has been performing forensic evaluations in divorce cases for over twenty years. Our work has led to greater documentation of the earnings of underemployed, unemployed, and disabled spouses in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Florida areas. Call us at 800-292-1919 to see how we can assist you in documenting a spouse’s employability.