The Gavron Warning – Alimony With a Warning

By | August 9, 2017

A “Gavron Warning,” while sounding like something out of a sci-fi movie, is simply a legal term taken from a California court case — In Re Marriage of Gavron. The court’s decision in that case led to the creation of a section of the California Family Code that deals with spousal support, and when a person receiving such support should make reasonable efforts toward becoming self-sufficient. This is called a Gavron Warning.

This article is intended to discuss some basic information about the Gavron Warning, since codified in California Family Code § 4330(b), which states the following:

When making an order for spousal support, the court may advise the supported spouse that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs.

Continue reading to learn a little about the court case leading to the creation of the Gavron Warning and some of the factors the court considers when issuing an order on spousal support.


The Gavron Case

The appellate decision leading to the Gavron Warning occurred in 1988 and involved the California Court of Appeals for the Second District’s review of the case of Bernard Gavron v. Mildred Gavron, which involved the following facts:

Bernard and Mildred were married for 25 years with one adult child when they separated in 1976. The divorce was finalized in 1979. At this time, Bernard was ordered to pay Mildred spousal support in the amount of $1,100 per month until further notice of the court.

In June of 1986, Bernard sought to modify the support order. The court had already denied a previous request to modify the spousal support. But after a March 1987 hearing, the court ultimately ordered an end to the spousal support payments. In that ruling, the court stated:

[Wife] remains highly improvident by relying on [Husband] for her sole support. She apparently has given no thought to the possibility that [Husband] may become incapacitated or meet an untimely demise. It should be noted that a marriage of twenty-five (25) years is not tantamount to social security.

The case made its way to the state appellate court, which struck a notably softer tone than the lower court when rendering its decision. Though the higher court agreed that the trial court had broad discretion in modifying or revoking spousal support orders, it noted, “The [trial] court’s discretion is not unlimited.”

The appellate court further noted that the Gavron case involved no material change of circumstances justifying the trial court’s termination of spousal support. Finally, the appellate court argued that Mildred Gavron should have received advance warning, prior to any modification of spousal support, that she was expected to become self sufficient.

Accordingly, the appellate court found that the lower court has ruled erroneously when it terminated Mildred Gavron’s support, reinstating payments.

What Does a Court Consider When Issuing a Spousal Support Order?

When making a determination on spousal support, the court is guided by the factors set up in Family Code § 4320. This law requires the court to consider a number of factors including the extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. In addition, the court will consider the marketable skills of the person receiving support, as well as the job market for those skills. Visit our main alimony & spousal support page for more details.

How Are Gavron Warnings Issued?

The court either gives a Gavron warning verbally or in writing. Frequently, a warning is included in a written judgment. Such a warning can either occur in a stipulated judgment (settlement) or in a contested divorce. In other words, the parties can mutually agree that the supported spouse will eventually become self-supporting, or a judge may order the supported spouse to eventually become self-supporting.

Gavron Warning Alimony & Spousal Support

Do Gavron Warnings Apply to Child Support?

Gavron Warnings only apply to spousal support orders. Child support is a separate issue under the law. However, California Family Code § 4053 states that both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.

Are Gavron Warnings Ever Not Issued?

Not every person who’s been granted spousal support will be issued a Gavron Warning. As mentioned in an earlier section, the court will consider a number of different factors when considering an order for spousal support including the job market and supported spouse’s marketable skills.

In addition, California Family Code § 4330(b) states that in cases of marriages lasting for a long duration (10 years or more), the court may not be compelled to issue a Gavron Warning to the supported spouse.

This theoretically provides a safety net for dependant spouses who divorce later in life, and are perhaps not in a position earn much money due to advanced age.

It’s important to note however, when considering the definition of a marriage of long duration, prolonged periods of separation during a marriage could affect how the court views the duration of that marriage.

If You Have Questions, You Should Contact a Lawyer

Those who read this article hopefully have a sense of how complicated things can become in issues of spousal support. As with any divorce situation, there are several variables that have to be considered—this applies whether you are seeking spousal support, or trying to protect your earnings from an unfair spousal support order.

Family lawyers like us deal with a wide range of divorce issues — from modifying existing spousal support orders — to determining a fair amount of compensation based on the length of a marriage and the lifestyle established during that time. Whatever your situation, a good lawyer will be able to help guide you through the process, and answer your questions along the way.

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