Should you consider a vocational evaluation of your spouse or ex-spouse? Here’s an example: The parties are going through a divorce or it is post-divorce and the husband says to me:
“Why do I have to pay so much spousal support? She won’t work. She needs to earn money. I want the Court to order my wife or my ex-wife to go to work.”
I explain that the Court cannot FORCE someone to work because that would be involuntary servitude and that violates the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—the one that outlawed slavery. So, what can the supporting spouse do? Here in California you can ask for a vocational evaluation of the supported spouse. In this example, the husband or ex-husband (but it could just as easily be the wife or ex-wife) is trying to prove that the supported spouse has earning ability and has the opportunity to earn income. The vocational evaluation is used to impute earnings to the supported spouse whether or not they go to work. If the Court agrees that earnings should be imputed, then the amount of spousal support paid will decrease. If you are stuck paying a high level of long term spousal support, the cost of a vocational evaluation is probably worth it over time.
A vocational evaluation may also be effective if your spouse or ex-spouse is underemployed. For example, a situation where the supported party has an advanced degree, such as a Master’s Degree, but has chosen to work in a minimum wage or low paying job.
Do vocational evaluations always work? No, but if you don’t have one, then what evidence can you present to the court that your spouse or ex-spouse has earning ability and the opportunity to work? Probably none, and you may be stuck paying the same level of spousal support until your ex spouse dies or remarries.
Should you always do a vocational evaluation? No. For example, if you had a long term marriage and your spouse or ex-spouse was a stay at home parent who never worked and only received a high school diploma 20 plus years ago, a vocational evaluation may not get you much more than imputation of minimum wage, which you should be able to get without one. Finally, can you get a vocational evaluation to reduce your payment of child support? That will be the topic of a soon to be added article.