Will Your Support Case Benefit from Retaining a Vocational Expert?

There are some situations in which your attorney may recommend that you retain certain professionals, such as an accountant, appraiser, or vocational expert, to assist with your domestic case.

A vocational expert is a consultant who may be hired to prepare a report and testify as an expert witness at a deposition or in court regarding employment and economic issues that relate to a party’s ability to work and earn income, immediately and in the future. A vocational expert is most likely to be retained in a domestic case where there is a significant disparity in the parties’ incomes that gives rise to the potential for long-term or high dollar awards of alimony, and/or in cases regarding child support that involves a deviation from the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

A vocational expert may be retained by the party who is seeking spousal support or child support, or by the party who is defending such claims.

If a spouse (or parent) seeking spousal support or child support is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a vocational expert can perform an assessment of that party’s ability to work and generate income based on a multitude of factors, such as age, health, education, work experience, availability of jobs in the local market, and the skills necessary to perform those jobs. In this situation, the party from whom support is being sought may retain a vocational expert to analyze whether or not the party who is unemployed or underemployed has the ability to earn income that might enable that party to be self-supporting (in whole or in part), or to make greater contribution to the support of a minor child.

On the other hand, if a party from whom support is being sought had a history of higher earnings and experienced a sudden decrease in income at or near the time court proceedings were initiated, a party seeking spousal support or child support may elect to retain a vocational expert to examine the income and earning potential of the supporting party. Under these circumstances, a vocational expert may be able to ascertain whether the supporting party is attempting to defer or suppress his or her income or earning potential in an attempt to minimize or avoid a spousal support or child support obligation.

The reports and testimony of a credible vocational expert can have a significant impact on the outcome of a spousal support or child support case. Regardless of whether the parties submit their matters to the court for determination, or they are able to reach an agreement between themselves, the contributions of a vocational expert can help ensure that the parties achieve a fair and equitable resolution.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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