Making a Vocational Expert Work in your Divorce

In a divorce where maintenance and/or a spouse’s ability to earn income is at issue, hiring a vocational expert may be a worthwhile investment. His or her expert testimony could be critical in helping the judge ascertain a spouse’s earning potential. Understanding both current and future earning capacity is essential in determining maintenance and the allocation of assets.

A vocational expert will typically conduct a combination of individual testing and market research and generate a written report based on those findings.  He or she may even assist with finding jobs by sending leads and postings, help with resume or advertisement writing, or direct the spouse to enroll in training or education. He or she may also help the spouse determine the cost-benefit analysis of returning to the workforce when faced with the cost of day care or additional education that may be needed, for example.

The expert’s testimony is typically used by the Court to impute income when current income is otherwise not know because the spouse is unemployed. For example, the expert may determine that a spouse out of work for the last 20 years, with limited job skills could not earn more than $30,000 per year in the current market. The judge may impute $30,000 (or less) based on those findings. The expert may also be able to advise what the spouse can do to rehabilitate him or herself. Based on those findings, the judge may set aside money that should be paid for additional training or education.

Particularly in cases where one spouse has been out of work for several years, and the other spouse is grossly inflating her earning potential, a vocational expert may make a tremendous difference in any maintenance award or property allocation.

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