Getting to Work: Vocational Examinations and Spousal Support

Sometimes when spouses get a divorce, one spouse is at stark financial disadvantage compared to the other spouse. In particular, divorce cases where marriages that lasted for more than 10 years during which one spouse was unemployed the entire time will probably involve a substantial disparity in financial need between spouses.

Sometimes California courts can rely on a vocational examination to help determine a spouse’s need for spousal support and the appropriate duration a spousal support order may be in effect.

Legal Authority for Vocational Examinations

Under Family Code § 4331, the court has discretion whether to order a vocational examination to help determine issues of spousal support. A qualified vocational training counselor selected by the court will conduct the examination and assess factors relevant to a party’s employability.

Factors that may be relevant to a party’s employability include:

  • The party’s age;
  • The party’s health;
  • The education level of the party;
  • The marketability of the party’s skills;
  • The party’s employment history;
  • The current availability of employment opportunities.

A vocational training counselor must meet certain statutory requirements to qualify for examining someone for spousal support determinations.

At a minimum a vocational training counselor must have the following qualifications:

  • A master’s degree in behavioral sciences, or other postgraduate degree related to vocational evaluation;
  • Qualification to administer and interpret inventories for assessing career potential;
  • Demonstrated ability in interviewing clients and assessing marketable skills with an understanding of age constraints, physical and mental health, previous education and experience, and time and geographic mobility constraints;
  • Knowledge of current employment conditions, job market, and wages in the indicated geographic area.

Requesting an Order for a Vocational Examination

Typically the party who is defending against a spouse’s request for spousal support will file a motion asking the court to authorize a vocational assessment for the spouse seeking support. A motion requesting a vocational examination will usually be accompanied by a statement alleging that the spouse seeking spousal support is capable of employment after a reasonable amount of time of good faith job searching.

Effect of a Vocational Examination

A vocational examination will provide the court with an opinion as to the likelihood the spouse asking for support can obtain gainful employment. Based on the vocational examiner’s opinion, a court could issue a spousal support order that terminates after a period of time allowing the spouse to find employment.

If a spouse makes a good faith effort to find employment, but has not done so, they can request a post-judgment modification of the spousal support order to extend the date at which spousal support would terminate.

Consult a Dedicated Westlake Village Divorce Attorney for Advice

Divorce litigation is often a mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing process. The longer a divorce takes, the more expensive it potentially becomes. That is why you should call an experienced Westlake Village divorce attorney who is dedicated to promoting the best interests of you and your family. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff, our clients benefit from compassionate and cost-effective legal representation puts your family’s financial interests about our own business interests – and so can you.

Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff at (805) 633-4999 or contact us online to learn how we can help you handle your divorce issues.

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