Vocational Evaluation Divorce
What is a vocational evaluation?
In a divorce setting, a vocational evaluation is an assessment of a party’s ability to earn income.
Family Code 4331
The law regarding vocational evaluations and spousal support is found in Family Code 4331. However, evaluations may also be appropriate in child support.
What’s the purpose of a vocational evaluation?
If your spouse is purposely unemployed, or underemployed, a vocational evaluation helps prove their earning capacity, thereby reducing the payor’s support.
What does the vocational evaluator evaluate?
The vocational evaluator is tasked with assessing the spouse who is unemployed, or underemployed.
They may make findings on earning capacity. A party’s “earning capacity” is defined as income the spouse is reasonably capable of earning based upon the spouse’s age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history and the availability of employment opportunities.” Marriage of Simpson, (1992) C.4th 225, 14 Cal. Rptr. 2d 411.
The evaluator also researches market conditions to determine what current jobs are available and fit for the person being evaluted.
Ability and Opportunity
Family Code 4331 reads, “…The examination shall include an assessment of the party’s ability to obtain employment based upon the party’s age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history, and the current availability of employment opportunities. The focus of the examination shall be on an assessment of the party’s ability to obtain employment that would allow the party to maintain their marital standard of living.”
In order to impute income onto the unemployed or underemployed spouse, there must be findings of ability and opportunity.
Should You Obtain a Vocational Evaluation?
Depends on the facts of your case.
Sometimes a vocational evaluation is a waste of time and money. For example, in a marriage lasting 60 years, where the wife never worked, has no skills, and is now 88 years old with a brain tumor. In this example, no favorable report will be produced.
Another example would be where it’s a short-term marriage. Rather than spend the costs hiring an evaluator, and paying attorneys’, it may be more cost-beneficial to agree to pay spousal support for a limited amount of time – not to exceed half the length of marriage in a short-term marriage.
What about a long-term marriage? Do I get forever alimony? Read here: 10 Year Marriages and Divorce