Vocational Examination when Ex Spouse is Minimizing Income

Here’s How a Vocational Examination for Your Ex-Spouse Can Help With Your Child Support Payments

What should you do if your child’s other parent refuses to maximize their income by declining appropriate work, so that they can receive more child support from you? Ask the court to order that they take a vocational examination.

A common but frustrating situation in child support cases is when a recipient of child support avoids earning income in order to receive more child support. This situation can happen in several ways, for example:

EXAMPLE 1: Dad is a full-time accountant and pays child support to Mom. Mom was a full-time bank manager for 13 years. She just started receiving a nominal amount of child support. Last month, she voluntarily requested a transfer to a different department where she now works as an executive assistant to the bank’s regional manager. Now Mom’s salary has reduced by 30%, and she is asking the court for more child support from Dad.

EXAMPLE 2: Mom works full-time as a corporate executive and pays child support to Dad. Dad was a computer technician for 7 years. He recently became unemployed and has started looking for work. Instead of applying for IT jobs commensurate with his experience, Dad’s has been applying to entry-level positions in retail. In the meantime, Mom’s child support payments have risen substantially.

Vocational examinations stop parents from avoiding earning more income

In both of these situations, it’s clear that the parent receiving child support is deliberately minimizing their income to get more child support. A vocational examination (aka vocational evaluation) is the key to stopping the other parent from engaging in this unfair tactic, because the law requires both parents to earn as much as they can for support.

Family Code section 4331 allows a court to order a parent to undergo a vocational examination to establish the parent’s:

  • Educational background and work experience
  • Technical knowledge and qualifications
  • Salary history and earning capacity
  • Types of jobs that are attainable for that parent’s qualifications, and would maximize income for that parent
  • The state of the current job market with relation to those types of jobs identified by the vocational expert

Armed with a favorable vocational examination report, the parent paying child support can show the court how the other parent unreasonably delayed and/or refused to seek employment, despite his or her ability. Courts are allowed to consider those factors when issuing support orders. In re Marriage of Rosan (1972) 24 Cal.App.3d 885, 896.

In light of the vocational examination report, the court may even order the parent to attend job training, job placement, vocational rehabilitation, and work programs as appropriate. Family Code section 3558.

If the vocational report shows that the other parent unreasonably avoided earning income, the court is more likely to take measures in reducing child support so that it is fair to the paying parent, i.e., imputing income, issuing a seek-work order, etc.

To discuss whether a vocational examination is appropriate in your case, please contact our office for a free consultation.

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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

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