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What is a Vocational Rehabilitation Evaluation and When Would you Need One In A Family Law Case?

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In Missouri, under 452.335 RSMo, the statute that determines or guides the court’s award of maintenance and K.S.A. 23-2902, which is the statute that determines an award o maintenance in Kansas, one of the central considerations is the spouse’s ability to work and to what capacity he or she can work. As you can imagine, this is often an issue in substantial dispute. Unless one party has a meaningful, long-term work history and there are not long-term or significant absences from the work place, it can be difficult to make arguments about the spouse’s capacity to be gainfully employed at his or her maximum level. This is where a vocational rehabilitation evaluation is often helpful in the case. It can be helpful for the spouse seeking maintenance to prove that he or she simply does not have significant job skills that would allow him or her to be gainfully employed and able to fully support themselves. It can also be helpful for the party trying to defend a maintenance case or claim in allowing the presentation of expert witness evidence about a spouse’s capability to be gainfully employed beyond what he or she is claiming capability.

There are relatively few experts in Kansas and Missouri who can provide forensic vocational evaluations and opinions regarding employability and wage-earning potential. Although the cost can sometimes be significant, if it lowers a monthly maintenance obligation by hundreds or even thousands per month, the initial investment is well worth the cost.

What is the Purpose of a Vocational Expert in Family Law?

Generally, vocational experts serve three central purposes. First, they will help the parties understand the earning potential and capability of both parties or spouses. They are able to use their specialized knowledge and training to assess a spouse’s present and future employment position/capability including their ability to be gainfully employed, job/career availability in the profession for which they have qualification and assess/provide expert testimony regarding their qualifications and earning capacity. In other cases, a vocational expert is hired as a rebuttal expert to respond to an incorrect evaluation performed by the opposing party’s expert. Finally, in some situations, a vocational rehabilitation expert provides actual and practical hands-on career coaching to help a spouse or is unemployed or under-employed improve their resume, identify appropriate employment opportunities and adequately prepare for interviews and other steps to seek gainful employment.

If you are facing a situation where maintenance is needed or you anticipate defending a claim for maintenance, work with our firm’s skilled attorneys at Pingel Family Law to understand the litigation options available to you and the potential for maximizing a successful outcome. Call our office today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation.
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