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When it comes to divorce, many women still believe that all they need to do is hire a good lawyer –and then, they’re all set.
These days, however, ending a marriage typically involves much, much more than “just” legal considerations, and that’s why it can be extremely beneficial to build a team of qualified professionals who can help you achieve the most positive outcome possible.
At a minimum, your divorce team should include:
- an attorney, who can take the lead, overseeing the legal aspects of your case and making Court filings and appearances as necessary,
- a qualified Divorce Financial Advisor, who can ensure you get through your divorce with both your current finances intact and a secure financial future ahead of you, and
- a therapist, who can help you cope with the emotional turmoil that comes with ending a marriage.
In addition, for the reasons listed below, more and more women are finding they need to enlist the services of a vocational expert, someone whose job it is to know what skills are in demand in today’s employment market, and what income these skills can command in various careers.
Vocational experts evaluate a person’s abilities, interests, education, experience and other qualifications against the backdrop of the current employment market. They assess the likelihood that a person can get a job, and what s/he can expect to earn, both immediately and in the long term.
In a divorce proceeding, information and evaluations from a vocational expert can be required by or presented to the Court for consideration in determining spousal and child support payments.
If you’re in the process of divorcing, or even if you’re just thinking you may be headed down that path, here are four key reasons why you may need a vocational expert in your corner:
- To obtain an objective, professional assessment of your spouse’s earning potential.
Very often, a spouse with historically high earnings will nonetheless want his alimony and/or child support obligations to be determined based on a much lower income. However much a source of pride your husband’s high income has been during the marriage, once in divorce proceedings, he may claim his earnings have plummeted due to current economic conditions. He may even quit his job or take a lower-paying position during the divorce, only so his alimony and child support payments will be less. These are underhanded tactics to be sure –and they’re particularly difficult to understand when child support is involved –but be aware: Husbands use dirty tricks like these more often than most women realize.
Fortunately, a vocational expert can cut through devious strategies and false assertions and get to the facts of the matter: What can your husband reasonably be expected to earn? If his income has legitimately decreased, is it likely to rebound? How soon?
- To get a realistic idea of your own employability and earning potential.
A husband may insist his wife is fully capable of earning a six-figure income, even if she has been entirely out of the workforce for many years. This is an especially likely claim if she has advanced degrees or special training. If, like many women, you gave up paid work to care for your children, you’ll want to know what your employment prospects are and what you can expect to earn if you re-enter the workforce. A vocational expert can tell you how your education and work history position you in today’s job market, and whether you’ll need additional training to update your skills.
You’d probably welcome this kind of career advice simply because it’s helpful in achieving personal and professional growth. In a divorce, having this knowledge under your belt is also a valuable defensive tactic. Vocational expertise can help ensure your settlement is calculated based on fair assumptions.
- To provide another opinion if your spouse is retaining a vocational expert, or if a vocational evaluation is Court-ordered.
If you are requesting alimony payments as part of your divorce settlement, your husband can ask that a vocational evaluation be conducted to determine your earning capacity in the current job market. (In some states, such an evaluation is mandatory.) Your projected earning potential is then imputed, or assigned a value, and the alimony your husband will be required to pay could be reduced by that amount.
For example, if you are qualified to work in a field where jobs are available paying $50,000/year, but you choose to work at a bookshop and earn $20,000, it is possible your husband’s obligation to pay spousal support would be based on the $50,000 you “could” be earning.
In contentious divorce cases, both sides may bring in a vocational expert to be sure that the conclusions reached are reasonable, fair and consistent. If you are required to cooperate with a vocational evaluation requested by your spouse, it may be in your best interest to have your own expert conduct one as well, to provide another opinion to the Court.
- To evaluate employability or earning capacity after a change in life circumstances.
The assessments performed by a vocational expert can document a change in your ability to earn. For example, should you experience an illness or injury that prevents you from working as you once did or could, a vocational expert can not only help you find fulfilling work that’s possible for you to do, he/she could also provide an evaluation that objectively describes your limitations to the Court so spousal support can be appropriately adjusted.
Conversely, if you believe your spouse’s circumstances have changed such that an adjustment in his alimony and/or child support payments to you is warranted, a vocational expert may corroborate that opinion for the Court.
While vocational expertise might be a service you never imagined you’d need, it can be worthwhile both during and after your divorce. As a Divorce Financial Strategist™, I’ve seen time and time again how some estranged husbands try to gain a financial advantage –and how a vocational evaluation can help set the record straight. What’s more, you will likely find that the results of interest and aptitude tests from the vocational evaluation process can also be valuable for your personal and professional growth down the road. When the turmoil of the divorce process is behind you, and you’re setting new personal and professional goals as a single woman, you may choose to revisit a vocational consultant for guidance in making a career change, or even launching your own business.
Jeff is the author of the new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally – What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, which provides women going through the crisis of divorce with the tools they need to secure their financial future. What’s more, he is donating 50% of all profits to the Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity whose mission is to help female victims of domestic abuse and the organizations that support them.
All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.