How to Limit Your Spousal Support with a Vocational Evaluation

Limit Your Spousal Support with a Vocational Evaluation

If you are in the process of getting divorced and are worried about paying spousal support for the rest of your life, there are some options available to limit the spousal support you pay. One of these options is the vocational evaluation (or voc eval).

A vocational evaluation is specifically defined by Family Law Code Section 4331, which states:

“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, the court may order a party to submit to an examination by a vocational training counselor. The examination shall include an assessment of the party’s ability to obtain employment based upon the party’s age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history, and the current availability of employment opportunities. The focus of the examination shall be on an assessment of the party’s ability to obtain employment that would allow the party to maintain herself or himself at the marital standard of living.”

What is a Vocational Evaluation (Voc Eval)?

During an examination by a vocational training counselor, the vocational evaluation expert will ask three big questions:

(1) Are there opportunities for this person to work?

(2) Does this person have the ability to work?

(3) Does this person have a willingness to work?

Usually a vocational evaluation expert will evaluate a spouse for work that will allow that party to self-maintain the marital standard of living. However, this is not set in stone, and sometimes the voc eval expert will recommend that a spouse take a job, even if the job does not pay enough to self-maintain their standard of living. California wants to encourage people to become self-reliant after divorce, and a job that might not pay enough to maintain the marital standard of living will still help reduce spousal support.

Sometimes a voc eval may not be appropriate for a spouse, based on the type and years of marriage. The most effective situation to employ a voc eval is for a short-term marriage (less than ten years).

There are situations where you do not usually need a voc eval.  It can be assumed that a person’s earning ability will be minimum wage when:

  • two people have been married for longer than ten years,
  • the supported spouse has only a high school education and
  • the supported spouse has spent the last thirty years rearing children

Benefits of a Vocational Evaluation

If a vocational evaluation is right in your situation, there are many benefits. The voc eval can help reduce legal costs by limiting the guesswork . It will tell clients and attorneys about the spouse’s earning capacity. Getting a voc eval will provide more definitive knowledge.  The Court can use this in making its determination on spousal support awards. The more accurate evaluation it can make the first time around, the less need there will be for future court proceedings and requests for modification. Voc evals can also facilitate more amicable settlements, which cancels out the need for a lengthy and expensive hearing. Additionally, a vocational evaluation can give the supported spouse the confidence that they need to successfully re-enter the job market.


Marissa Major and Hillary Warren of Warren Major LLC are Marin County family law attorneys, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues. If you are looking for honest, expert legal advice, please contact our office for a consultation

Disclaimer: Warren Major LLP’s blog articles on its website for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Warren Major LLP or the individual author. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice on any subject matter. For advice pertaining to your specific case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Using this information or sending electronic mail to Warren Major LLP or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements pertaining to past results do not guarantee future results.