Vocational Examinations in California Divorce Cases: Should You Request One?
Many Orange County Divorce cases often involve spousal support, also referred to as alimony or maintenance, which is money paid from one spouse to the other in order to help support the spouse during the pendency of the action and after judgment. Income is often an issue that arises when determining spousal support. As a general rule under California Family Code § 4330, an order for spousal support is based on the standard of living that was established during the marriage. In order to calculate this support, courts look at the earning capacity of the parties and whether or not it is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during marriage by considering certain circumstances including the following:
When a party is requesting spousal support, courts look at: “[t]he marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment. . . .” California Family Code § 4320(a)(1).
In determining spousal support, the court may order a party to undergo and submit a vocational examination done by a vocational training counselor pursuant to California Family Code § 4331.
What is a Vocational Examination?
Under California Family Code § 4331(a), a Vocational Examination focuses on a party’s ability to secure employment that would allow the party to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage. This is done by assessing a number of factors including the current availability of employment opportunities and the supported partys:
In an interview setting, a Vocational Training Counselor determines the potential earning capacity and potential employment opportunities available to the party requesting support based on the current job market and the factors listed above.
What is a Vocational Training Counselor?
Under California Family Code § 4331(d) a Vocational Training Counselor is a person with enough training, knowledge, or experience to administer and interpret tests in order to analyze them for marketable skills, formulate career goals, plan courses of training or study, and evaluate the current job market.
How Could a Vocational Examination Impact Spousal Support Award?
Vocational Examinations are useful in cases where a partner is unemployed, underemployed, or not earning up to their potential. A Vocational Examination can also eliminate any blurred lines when it comes to determining the earning capacity of either party, which plays a large role in the amount of support you could pay or receive. Also, because a Vocational Examination is useful in determining earning capacity, if a party is found to have earning capacity, courts have the ability to impute income. Imputing income means assigning a spouse a fictional income based on their earning capacity, rather than their actual income, especially when it is clear after the Vocational Examination that the party could be earning more.
In many Orange County Divorce cases, as well as California Divorce cases generally, a spouse could be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed as a way to reduce their income which in turn could reduce their support obligations. Reduced income could also have an impact on the amount of support that could be awarded to that spouse. In these situations, it is possible to request that the party undergo a Vocational Examination to determine the true earning potential of that party.
If you are concerned about your spouse’s earning capacity, contact Harris & McKeown to discuss whether requesting a Vocational Examination is right for your case. The attorneys at Harris & McKeown will work diligently to assist you on the issue of spousal support in your case.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.