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Gavron Warnings for Spousal Support

The term “Gavron warning” is named after a California appellate court decision from over 20 years ago titled, “In Re Marriage of Gavron.” Since this decision, the California Family Code has been modified to include section 4330. In this article, we will look at some common questions about Gavron warnings.

Family Code section 4330(b) states:

(b) When making an order for spousal support, the court may advise the recipient of support that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs, taking into account the particular circumstances considered by the court pursuant to Section 4320, unless, in the case of a marriage of long duration as provided for in Section 4336, the court decides this warning is inadvisable.

There are two important parts of this code section bolded above. First, the word “may advise” means the court does not have to give a Gavron warning at all. Second, the code section specifically tells family law judges that they can again decide to not give it at all in a marriage of long duration. A California long term marriage is generally a marriage of 10 years or more although a marriage of less than 10 years can, under some circumstances, still be considered long term.

The reason why the length of the marriage is considered here is because there may be a situation where the spouses are older and the spouse asking for support is retired or soon to be retired, and no longer earning a regular income, or realistically expected to continue earning a steady income. In that situation, it’s not really reasonable for a court to issue a warning that the supported spouse continue to find reasonable ways to support himself, such as a part or full time job. The judge’s use of discretion means that the decision to issue a Gavron warning is fact-specific and will vary from marriage to marriage.

Let’s assume the supported spouse is already employed. Is it still appropriate to give a Gavron warning? It could be, if the supported spouse is under-employed or as a warning that just because he is now receiving alimony, that he can’t just up and quit his job.

What happens once a Gavron warning is given? How long should the supported spouse be given to make “reasonable efforts” to support himself? California courts usually allow for “fair” notice to self-support. This is intentionally vague and ambiguous. The timing for a spouse who has years of experience and education to find a job is much shorter than a spouse who has been a stay-at-home parent for the past 15 years, and only completed high school. Each case is different, and again this is a fact-specific decision by the court.

If you have further questions about a Gavron warning in your case, want to know more about your right to receive support, or want to know how to modify a support amount you pay/receive, make an appointment to consult with a knowledgeable attorney at Cage & Miles, LLP. We are located in the Rancho Bernardo/Carmel Valley area and available for a free 30-minute consultation.