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What is a Vocational Examination?

Many times in divorce cases, we recommend to our clients that they undergo a vocational examination, or the opposing counsel, requests that the party submit to an independent vocational examination. What is a vocational examination and what purpose does it serve?

A vocational examination is a process where a person trained and experienced in employment matters, conducts a personal interview with a person over their employment history, education, skills, training and income information, for purposes of writing a detailed written report showing what that person’s income capabilities are. The purpose is not to find employment for that person, but simply to assess their income earning capabilities. It is particularly useful where a person has been out of the job market for a number of years and there is no real clear way of knowing what that person may be capable of doing work wise, or how much money they could make if they were working. The vocational expert will write a report and offer opinions as to what type of jobs are suitable for that individual and how much money those positions may pay. In that way, income can be “imputed” to that person, where there is an issue in the case of spousal maintenance, and sometimes is also used in cases where there is a child support issue in shared or equal placement arrangements.

The personal interview takes about an hour to two hours of time. The price of the initial evaluation and to write the report can vary from $740 to $1,500. Once the report is written, and if the case proceeds to trial or a contested hearing, and testimony is required of that expert, there will be an expert fee as well for in court testimony and that cost can vary anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for the court appearance.

Courts find vocational examinations helpful in cases where there is an issue as to spousal support (maintenance) and it cannot be determined from lay testimony as to what type of jobs the payee-spouse is capable of working at, or how much money that person could earn if they were working. The vocational expert provides this important opinion testimony to the court that based on the person’s job experience, education, skills, health, income history and other important factors, not only what type of employment is suitable for that person, but given the Bureau of Labor Statistics, what type of income that person could earn from those type of jobs. The court can consider this opinion testimony when making a final order on support or maintenance in a divorce case.

In my practice, anytime I am representing a payor-spouse on a maintenance case, if their spouse is unemployed, I am going to recommend to my client that they pay for the vocational examination. Further, if I have the payee-spouse instead as my client, I may also recommend that we undergo our own private vocational assessment to have a better idea of what type of jobs are suitable to this person, who may have been out of the work force for a number of years, and what type of income they can expect if they would be working. This can be a very useful tool to help a client, who has been historically dependent on their spouse during the marriage, to the extent that they can, to try to become more self-sufficient, now that the marriage is ending. There are a number of companies locally in Milwaukee who do such vocational assessments. This is an issue that the attorney and client should always talk about together. Since it involves a considerable expense to have the assessment, the client must be on board with having it done. Where it is requested by the opposing side and a person is requesting spousal support, the assessment is paid for by the other side and one must cooperate with the evaluation or can be compelled by court order, to submit to a vocational examination.

Do you have questions about maintenance or how a vocational examination may be useful in your divorce case? Call one of our attorneys at Karp & Iancu, S.C. to discuss your case.

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