Get Back to Work! I'm Not Paying Support!

When couples separate there are many pre-settlement issues that need to be addressed, as well as settlement issues. One of them is whether one spouse should continually to financially support the other spouse.

Starting with the divorce petition and/or response, one party (or both) will request the court grant spousal support. Because it will take at least six months, but often more (depending on issues) for a divorce to be finalized, a court can award a party temporary spousal support in the interim (mean time).

Spousal support will be awarded when one spouse does not have the means to continue at his/her current standard of living, and the other spouse does have the financial means to provide it to him/her.

The support-wanting spouse must show the court his/her inability to financially provide for him/her self. The other spouse then has the opportunity to show the court that it’s not true by requesting a vocational examination.

A vocational examination helps determine a support-wanting spouse’s ability to return to the workforce and earn income. It is often used when a spouse has been unemployed or has been out of the job market for some time. The examination is designed to determine the ability of that spouse to return to the work force and earn income so he or she will not need as much spousal and/or child support.

A vocational examination requires the support-wanting spouse to submit to a physical and/or mental examination to prove he/she is incapable of supporting him or herself. Keep in mind, this could be an expensive procedure, because usually the person requesting the examination must pay for it; the court system will not. It is a divorce tactic that needs to be thoroughly evaluated before using.

A court cannot force someone to work; however a judge can impute income to that spouse based on the findings of the vocational examination. This means the court can “assign” an earnings value to that spouse, and deny or lower spousal support – and even order or increase child support.

Next week, showing and proving an inability to support yourself financially…

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