Do I really need to be a Barista? – Vocational Evaluations Explained

This past holiday season I noticed a lot of commercials pandering to the coffee aficionado in all of us. Everything from the new Keurig to the admittedly hilarious George Clooney and Danny Devito commercials for Nescafé. Personally I love coffee; all kinds of coffee. So the idea of creating new caffeinated concoctions in my kitchen is very appealing. But that is where the interest stops. I have no desire to schlep lattes for a living no matter how much free coffee they offer. Having said that, I am fairly confident I am qualified for the job of barista, and I am pretty confident everyone reading this is as well. It really cannot be that hard, save for spelling the names of course.

Why does any of that matter? Well it matters to you if you are currently unemployed and there are child or spousal support issues in your case. If you are in this situation you have either heard (or should expect to hear) about a vocational evaluation. The purpose of this blog is to explain what a vocational evaluation is, why they are performed, and what to expect at your vocational evaluation.

Vocational evaluations are authorized under Family Code Section 4331, which gives the court jurisdiction to order a party to undergo a vocational assessment of their ability to gain employment and currently available opportunities for employment.

This evaluation is important for child or spousal cases where the payor asks the court to impute income to a non-working party. You see, in order for the court to do so, the moving party (the party that wants to impute income) must prove the other party has the ability to work and that there are current opportunities for employment consistent with those abilities. We have covered income imputation a number of times so I will not go into detail here. The most common way of do this is via a vocational evaluation.

A vocation evaluation will consist of completing paperwork about your work history, skills, and historic income. On this last part, the easiest way to get a complete history of your income is to go to the Social Security website and creating a profile.

You will also be interviewed by the evaluator about the paperwork you completed. This will be followed up with vocational testing to determine what your attributes and aptitudes say about your vocational abilities.

Finally, the evaluator will do an employment search based on the findings from the work history, interview and vocational testing. Generally this includes over the phone interviews with potential employers about the position, the candidates they are looking for and the pay range including benefits.

Once all this information is collected, the vocational evaluator will issue a report setting forth the evaluators opinion about what abilities the party has, what opportunities exist and the range of pay for those jobs.

Vocational evaluations are a pretty straight forward exercise, but that does not mean they are not highly contested. Many parties will object to undergoing a vocational evaluation because they do not want to work or do not think they should have to work. I understand these positions, and they are very valid arguments. There are many compelling reason why one party should not be forced to return to the work force. However these arguments should be made to the trial court in a support hearing, not by objecting to a vocational evaluation. Most Judges will order a vocational evaluation in any case where one party is not working; especially if the requesting party agrees to pay the cost. Objecting to the evaluation entirely is a very good way to end up on the wrong side of a sanctions order.

On the flip side of this issue is the benefits of a vocation evaluation. In some cases, the vocational evaluation will actually support a non-working parent’s argument for not returning to work. This can be due to many facts contained in the report, though often it is a result of a finding that a party has limited employment opportunities.

Another, somewhat unexpected, benefit is a vocational evaluation can take all of the work out of a job search. If a party is genuinely interested in returning to work, the vocational evaluator has done all of the work for you. He/she has provided you with a list of employers who are looking for candidates just like you and are willing to hire. All you are left to do is contacted the potential employers and provide them your resume.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding vocational evaluations. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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