Ask an Attorney: Nervous about Vocational Evaluation

Question

I am divorcing my husband of 37 years. I caught him on several different dating sites, and saw that he had used cut-and-paste to send untrue stories about me to these women to gain sympathy from them. I also noticed recently that a lot of our money is missing.

All our children are grown. I am asking for permanent alimony and half our assets. I already have been awarded temporary alimony.

He and his lawyer are calling this divorce a “non-alimony divorce.” They want the court to require me to have a vocational evaluation to prove that I can go out and get a job. Problem is, I am 61 years old. I retired several years ago because my husband urged me to retire, promising that I would have a great retirement with him. It seems unfair and ridiculous to require me to have this evaluation because if I didn’t give in to my husband’s pressure to retire, I probably would still be working in the career I’d had for thirty years. Who will hire me now, other than Walmart?

My lawyer told me to go ahead and have the vocational evaluation done because it would cost more to fight about it in court than to just do it. Now I am just waiting for the paperwork.

Can a judge order me to go back to work so that my husband doesn’t have to pay me permanent alimony? Can you please give me some insight on how this might unfold for me?

Answer

First off, I am happy to hear that you do have an attorney representing you and that she is mindful about her legal fees. Indeed, you could have paid her to oppose the motion and then the judge could have ordered you to have the evaluation anyway.

No one knows your case better than you and your attorney. Therefore, your attorney is the best person to advise you about how your husband may use the evaluation in court, strategies she may use to counter your husband’s arguments, and how the judge may rule.

Vocational Evaluations in General

There are some general principles that may help others who are in situations similar to yours:

  • Vocational evaluations usually are conducted by specially-trained psychologists, and may require more than one meeting.
  • The evaluator will obtain information about your skills, education, training, age, abilities and disabilities. The evaluator may conduct aptitude or other testing. The evaluation report will include potential matching jobs and their pay rates.
  • In dissolution proceedings, these evaluations are used primarily to reduce alimony obligations, but also can be used to demonstrate that the obligated spouse/former spouse is underemployed intentionally as a way to avoid paying the support obligation.

What to Expect

Whatever the result of the vocational evaluation, your attorney is the person best situated to advise you and to develop the appropriate strategy to present your case. Your judge will have broad discretion to consider all the factors and circumstances of your situation, decide which are most important, and then issue a ruling about the alimony award. Because of that broad discretion, it is difficult to predict how a judge might rule.

If I can add anything at all, it would only be to suggest that the evaluation could open a door for some new opportunity that you had never before considered, regardless of the judge's ultimate ruling.

Best of luck to you!

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