By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida
I have a client whose wife has a college degree and a license to practice real estate sales. However, the husband and wife agreed about 6 years ago, that the wife would stay home and raise the children as a stay at home mother. The husband, my client, was and is the major breadwinner of the family.
Now the children are in high school, and the wife is still a stay at home mom. She has filed for divorce and wants a permanent alimony. The wife wants to maintain the lifestyle of the marriage. Except the husband is in the building industry and new home construction is down along with his income in this present economy. The issue is does the wife have to go out to work now that she will be divorced?
So in order to prove that she is capable of earning a living, I motioned the court for a vocational study to determine her employability in today’s marketplace. With her active license and her education level, the wife went off to the evaluator, who is a psychologist, for testing. The testing most likely will result in the conclusion that the wife is employable at some salary. Therefore my client’s (husband) obligation to pay a hefty alimony will be diminished because of the law of alimony, which is wife’s need in this case and husband’s ability to pay. Her need will be lowered by my proving to the judge that she can work and earn something. Her children are grown and I do believe the judge will take all of those findings into consideration in a lower alimony award than she expects.
So what is the defense side? If I were representing the wife, if I couldn’t prevent the motion for vocational evaluation by issuing a request for a protective order, then afterwards, I could negotiate a much larger piece of the marital estate instead of a 50/50 split in lieu of a permanent alimony. That way my client (wife now) would get the money or assets up front and have the freedom to invest with her own control. I would also focus on what she is capable of earning and the fact that she can’t find a job in real estate in this market. Thereby I would have established her need for support even if albeit she gets only a small award of alimony. She would have a larger portion of the marital estate and perhaps even remain in the marital home.
In conclusion, vocational evaluations are used in court to lower support obligations of the other party. They are a very effective tool, but ultimately it is the judge who at his/her discretion decides what is going to be if the parties can’t come to some collaborative divorce resolution. For more information about this or other divorce topics, call one of the divorce lawyers at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561-835-9091 or click on the Firm’s web site at www.familylawwpb.com.