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What is a Vocational Expert and Do You Need One in a Virginia Divorce?


If your Virginia divorce attorney has mentioned the term vocational expert, you may be wondering what this position entails and how does their expertise fit into your pending divorce. There may be situations where the use of a vocational expert is key to a divorce hearing. In fact, the use of vocational experts in divorce matters is becoming more common. The reason is because a vocational expert can evaluate an under-employed person’s potential earning capacity. He or she will testify to what a person could be doing, and their testimony can be used to raise or lower alimony payments to one spouse.

What Do Vocational Experts Look At?

A vocational expert has the necessary training to look at someone’s earning capacity by evaluating their job skills, prior and current work history, their education, and what current employment prospects are available in the region. During a divorce hearing, the vocational expert can paint a better picture of what either spouse should be earning, both now and in the future. The expert will review everything from your job training, professional skill set, what you typically earned in the past, and through a careful review of your employment history, come up with an expert opinion.

Vocational experts will factor in other variables as well — current market trends, geographic salaries, a slow economy or downturn in the job market, etc. These are important factors that can have a dramatic effect on the overall value.

Can A Vocational Expert Help My Case?

It’s understandable that you may be hesitant to add more experts to your divorce since costs are already piling up. However, what you spend now on necessary experts can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. If your spouse is the one who is responsible for alimony and child support but is suddenly making a claim that they cannot work or earn more, you may need a vocational expert. The expert can uncover a true assessment of what your spouse could be earning.

This is especially helpful in cases where your ex is intentionally keeping their salary low to avoid support obligations. Your ex may think he or she is being smart by leaving a high-paying corporate salary to take a much lower wage job, but it can backfire on him or her. Let a vocational expert shed light on underhanded attempts to get out of financial responsibility.

If your vocational expert shows that your spouse could be earning significantly more, the judge can assign additional income to him or her. This is what is known as imputing income. Both alimony and child support obligations are based on imputed wages, not actual earnings.

On the flip side, if your spouse is trying to assign a high earning capacity to you and you’ve been out of the job market for years while raising kids or going to school, you may not be able to step right into a high-paying job. A vocational expert can show that your earning potential is lower, and you would likely be earning a lot less than your spouse is suggesting.

Contact a Virginia Divorce Attorney

While a judge is not bound by vocational experts’ opinions, they are persuasive. By choosing the right Leesburg divorce attorney, you can work with the best vocational experts who can help your case. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC today at 703-997-4982 to schedule an initial consultation.

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Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC maintains an office in Loudoun County in the Town of Leesburg. We welcome inquiries from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.

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