top of page

Understanding Imputation of Income, Relevance, and Vocational Evaluations in California Divorce Cases: Insights from a Family Lawyer

Divorce proceedings in California involve intricate considerations, especially regarding the imputation of income and the significance of vocational evaluations. As a family lawyer in California, I aim to shed light on these crucial aspects to guide individuals navigating divorce in the state's legal landscape.


When Will a Court Impute Income?


In California divorce cases, accurately determining income plays a pivotal role when determining both temporary and permanent child and spousal support. But what happens when one party refuses to work to their full potential or intentionally avoids or shirks employment all together?  California family code imposes upon each parent an equal obligation to support their children. This means both parents have an equal obligation to seek full time employment and exploit workforce opportunities to earn according to their experience and ability.  The California legislature as reflected in the family code recognizes the inequity of one spouse paying support to another when the payee spouse or parent has intentionally avoided employment or income earning opportunities: hence tipping the scales and increasing support unfairly. When a party can prove the other party’s shirking of their income earning obligations, the Court is empowered to impute income to that party.


Importance of Vocational Evaluations


When imputing income, the question obviously becomes – how much income to impute. This is where vocational evaluations come in. Vocational evaluations are performed by vocational experts who test, assess, and analyze an party’s individual abilities, health and skill sets and apply them to available jobs in the market place where that experience and abilities would best be exploited. They in turn testify to that party’s job skills, employability, and potential income. A vocational evaluators expertise holds significant weight in cases where one spouse's earning capacity or employment status is disputed. Courts rely heavily on this analysis to determine the actual or potential income of a spouse, especially if they are unemployed, underemployed, or seeking spousal or child support.


When Vocational Evaluations Are Vital


1. Disputed Income: In cases where a spouse's reported income is inconsistent with their earning potential or qualifications, a vocational evaluation clarifies the actual income capacity.

2. Spousal Support Matters: Determining the appropriate amount of spousal support often requires an evaluation of both spouses' earning abilities. A vocational evaluation aids in justly establishing support obligations.


3. Child Support Considerations: In cases where a parent alleges a lower income than their potential, a vocational evaluation may help ascertain the true earning capacity for fair child support determinations.


In California, determining a party’s actual income, their avoidance of income earing opportunities, and the significance of vocational evaluations are critical factors in divorce proceedings. Accurate disclosure of income, timely assessment, and utilizing vocational evaluations when necessary, ensure fairness and equity in resolving financial aspects of divorce.


As a family lawyer in California, I advocate for equitable settlements that consider all aspects of a party’s income and earning capacity when necessary. If you're navigating divorce and require guidance on income-related matters, seeking legal counsel can ensure that your rights are protected and that financial matters are resolved justly and transparently.


Channe G. Coles

Family Law Attorney

18 views0 comments


bottom of page