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A Vocational Expert is a professional who is trained in determining the earning capacity of a person and/or the rehabilitation needs of a person who may be reentering the workforce.

A vocational evaluation may be ordered by the courts when there is an accusation that one party or both parties in the divorce litigation are unemployed and capable of earning an income, or underemployed and capable of earning a greater income, than that which is currently being earned. This most frequently occurs when one party is requesting spousal maintenance.

So why would a client need to be prepped for a vocational evaluation? As I regularly say, you want your client to present their best self in order to achieve the result they are looking for.

For instance, if your client is requesting spousal maintenance, she should not be bragging about how great she is at everything or how capable she is. I’m not saying don’t be honest. I’m just saying, present your honest answers humbly. Also, if your client is filling out a questionnaire about skills she may have, saying she is proficient at some programs when she used them once or twice, will only hurt her in the long run. For example, I have used Excel for years and years and years. Actually I’ve used Excel since it came out. I can do some basic formulas and I have even made a few graphs. That does not mean I am proficient at it. It means I know enough to get by.

You also do not want your client underestimating the about of time it may take to rehabilitate. For instance, if your client decides she wants to get her bachelor’s degree or even master’s degree, she needs to take a realistic inventory of her life and her abilities. Is this woman really capable of getting a master’s degree is two years if she is caring for 4 little kids 80% of the time? She may need to be guided to set realistic goals. What if she wants to start selling real estate. Fine, she can get her license and classes completed in just a few months, but it will take years to build a successful business. Is she going to be expected to support herself as soon as she gets her license? She probably won’t be able to, so needs to make a plan.

Your client should also be sure she has realistic expectations of the career path she may choose. For instance, if your client tells the vocational expert that she would like to be a nurse, but she can’t be on her feet for more than 2 hours or she hates the site of blood, then this is not a realistic career path. If your client wants to enter a certain field, such as a esthetician, thinking she is going to make $100,000 a year, she should probably go visit a few shops or look online to see what 90% of them make.

Your client needs to know how much she can earn at certain jobs and how much she needs to earn to survive. For instance, if your client needs $70,000 per year just to survive, she probably should not look into getting a job that pays $40,000 per year, such as a teacher.

Making a plan and an alternative plan is so crucial to assure your client receives the outcome she wants. Your client needs to know what to expect and how to respond to questions and questionnaires.


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