Can My Ex Force Me to Get a Job?

Divorce is often acrimonious, even in the best of times. The end of a marriage, no matter how amicable the parties may be, is stressful – particularly where finances are concerned. One common concern between divorcing spouses is the status of employment for one of the parties. A stay-at-home parent or homemaker, for example, may be in a difficult position, cut off from income. It is not unheard of for people in these situations to ask whether an ex-spouse can force him or her to get a job or find higher-paying work.

Legal Status of Alimony for Unemployed Spouses

Increasingly, there is a trend for judges and courts to rule against long-term support plans in divorce. This is particularly true in the case of unemployed homemakers. The practical realities of divorce, then, make it increasingly risky for unemployed spouses to pursue divorce without financial support of their own. These pressures worsen if the other party insists the other increase income or support payments of his or her own.

The law doesn’t require that a spouse work, nor do judges often force a divorcee to find employment. The reality, however, is that decreasing alimony payments and increased support costs can create situations where finding employment is the only option.

Vocational Experts and the Divorce Process

During the divorce proceedings, both spouses will likely undergo income analysis from a vocational expert. These assessments exist to determine support payments from either spouse to the other. This can be a benefit in the case of a previous homemaker who needs time to enter the workforce, or in the case of a stay-at-home parent who intends to continue caretaking. At the same time, however, it is not unheard of for vocational experts to rule against stay at home parents – ruling that their income potential is high enough to support themselves.

Judges and courts will typically be more likely to rule against income support if the spouse in question has received an education and has valuable skills. These cases are the most common situations in which a judge may rule that employment and self-sufficiency are requirements.

Alimony Process

The awarding of alimony depends on the specific circumstances of each couple. Long-term marriages in which one spouse is unemployed or a homemaker, for example, are far more likely to result in so-called permanent alimony. The intent with these payments is to provide support until remarriage or the death of the ex-spouse.

Younger spouses, on the other hand, may receive alimony payments – known as rehabilitative alimony – intended to provide support for going back to school or enter a profession. Permanent alimony support is not common for spouses beyond those who have spent decades as stay at home parents.

What Can You Do?

It is possible to dispute the advice of a vocational expert in the courtroom. This, however, is a difficult process and requires extensive evidence to contradict the assessment made by the vocational expert. Typically, it is only advisable to do this if guided by an attorney.

Very rarely will judges leave divorcees without any funds whatsoever, and it is highly unlikely to end up without any financial support – at least in the short term. Despite this, however, it is entirely possible to need to find employment to support a spouse’s expenses. Alimony is decreasing in length and breadth, and it should not be relied upon for a permanent income.

An attorney can help you better understand your alimony options during a divorce. As income may from an ex-spouse, it is not a guarantee that this source will last forever either. Even in permanent alimony cases, support lasts only until the death of the ex-spouse.