Advice from the Experts

The Vocational Rehabilitation Plan and Why Should You Have One?

By Dais DeWitt

Whether you go to trial or settle a case, both sides must analysis present facts about the circumstances and situation of the two divorcing parties. One important matter for consideration is employment and income. Sometimes one of the divorcing parties, often women or wife has only casual, undeveloped, limited, misdirected, or no significant work history. Sometimes the parties had an informal understanding that one would emphasize career development and the other would not work for wages because that person would handle the household and assume the primary parenting role. Occasionally one of the parties has recently become ill or had an accident that reduces and limits their ability to work. Occasionally there is an agreement to place one wage earner secondary to the other in order to have adequate attention for the children.

The future earning capacity of both individuals should be separately determined. That is easy to do when there are recent records from employers and income tax records. This is easy to do with anybody who is appropriately employed in a suitable field and thus does not plan to make any changes. But this is not at all easy to do if the individual has no recent track record. This is not easy to do when the money previously earned is modest and the involvement in the workforce is informal, for fun, part time, and not what they should continue to do if they must be self-supporting.

This is when some professional help may be needed. A careful vocationally oriented self-assessment can be done by you, by college counselors, by vocational rehabilitation counselors, by career consolers, and by counseling psychologists. Many times the interpretation of a vocational interest test findings can help get you started in a direction to which you will be well suited. There are as many ways to go about this kind of decision making as there are professionals. Nevertheless, this kind of testing and vocational counseling, according to Gallup poll completed in 199_ is one of the most effective kinds of counseling ever measured. The results of vocational counseling can be summarized in a written fashion. For the purposes of this article I have assumed that the subject of the vocational plan can work and would be expected by the Courts to do so. This is not so in all cases.

After you have a plan, either on your own or with the help of a professional, this information will become one of the facts that you will need for settlement or to present to a judge at trial. The plan should be detailed and specific as possible. The plan should include a time frame and a budget. The plan should estimate the end result in terms of the likely salary you will command in the future. When your attorney employs somebody to explain your vocational plan, this person is taking on the responsibilities of a vocational expert. A vocational expert is a board certified specialist with many years of experience completing forensic vocational assessments and writing up the findings for third parties, often judges.

There are clear advantages to working with a professional on this most important project. You will have an impartial sounding board. You will have objective information to consider. You will be protected from under and over estimating your prospects and you may also be directed away from high risk occupations (self employment, consulting), occupations to which you are individually unsuited or in which you would be likely to fail. So the more convincing your plan the greater likelihood you will be fully supported and provided with the resources you will need to implement your plan. You should confirm yourself that your attorney has selected a vocational expert with which you will be compatible. You will want someone who listens carefully to your hopes, provides a comprehensive assessment covering all relevant issues, and writes convincing and well thought out reports. Experienced experts can provide work samples. Ask to see these samples so you can confirm that the quality of the forensic vocational rehabilitation report that will be written for you will be up to your high standards. After all a lot of your future depends on what is agreed at settlement or decided by a Judge.

Your vocational rehabilitation and reentry plan can be the last piece of information that you need for settlement or to present to the Judge. Part of what is decided at that point is what resources and time will be needed for you to implement your plan. This then becomes a basis for decisions about rehabilitation maintenance granted to a party that will take some time to become self supporting.