If a vocational evaluator is being used in your divorce case to determine the earning capacity of you, your spouse, or both of you, what exactly does that mean? First, keep in mind that there are three types of income considered by a vocational evaluator: (1) an individual’s current earnings, (2) their expected earnings, and (3) their earning capacity, the amount the person is realistically able to earn. A spouse’s earning capacity is usually the most important factor in determining whether a spouse pays or receives support.
When a spouse is unemployed or underemployed, the earning capacity assessment will review past work history and project future prospects for employment by considering the spouse’s age, education, health, family circumstances, the state of the economy, geographical location, and any other factor relevant to the spouse’s ability to earn. The spouse’s federal and state tax returns for the past three or more years will be reviewed, though recent changes in the spouse’s health or education, or recent changes in the job market, may make this information less valuable. The vocational evaluator will also look at the unemployed or underemployed spouse’s diligence (or lack of it) in finding employment at an appropriate level of compensation.
The vocational evaluator will categorize the abilities and skills of the spouse and determine the typical earnings expected for various occupations the spouse is suited for, based on data taken from professional resources. Employment obstacles, like the need for and expense of specialized training, updated training, changes in the job market and economy, and personal traits like poor social skills or a negative attitude toward employment are all important considerations in the vocational evaluation process.
Once the vocational evaluator has determined appropriate job selections for a spouse, those jobs will be paired by the evaluator with compensation surveys prepared by many organizations. The compensation surveys are conducted once or twice yearly by various government agencies, professional and industry associations, compensation consulting firms, compensation informations services and educational institutions. Evaluators often use several of these compensation survey sources to obtain a reasonable range of earnings from each job selection. The vocational evaluator will consider additional types of compensation available in each position like bonuses, stock awards or options, retirement fund matching, educational expense reimbursement, and other fringe benefits.
The decision to use a vocational evaluator in your divorce is an important one. Consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether this is the right strategy in your particular case and, if it is, for referral to reputable, well-respected vocational evaluators in your community.