What is a Gavron Warning?


Many people expect the emotional effects of divorce, as well as practical changes in your life, such as where you will live or how much time you spend with your children. However, the financial impact of divorce can be one of the most significant changes you experience. You will need to divide your property and, if there is an income discrepancy between you and your spouse, you or your spouse might lose substantial financial support.

Spousal Support Awards

When one spouse cannot support themselves following a divorce, they might be awarded spousal support as part of the divorce order. This is a payment made monthly by one former spouse to the other former spouse. It is based on one spouse’s need for support following the divorce, as well as the other spouse’s ability to provide support.

In many cases, this support is not intended to be indefinite, however. The payments are instead meant to allow the spouse who is not self-supporting to maintain a particular standard of living even though they are not currently earning enough to do so on their own. The court will only expect the payor to provide support until the recipient can support themselves.

In this type of situation, the judge will provide notice to the recipient spouse called a Gavron Warning. It is important for both parties to understand how a Gavron Warning works and each of their rights and obligations under the warning.

How a Gavron Warning Works

The court often issues a Gavron Warning as part of the spousal support order at the time the divorce is finalized. The warning is directed toward the supported spouse, and it essentially orders that spouse to do everything they reasonably can do to be able to support themselves in a reasonable amount of time.

This “warning” arose following a 1988 ruling by the Second Appellate District Court of California in the case of Marriage of Gavron. The court in this case decided that a judge may modify or terminate a spousal support order based on the supported spouse’s failure to become employed, but only if the court first notified that spouse of their obligation to do so. This case largely started the trend away from permanent spousal support and, instead, in favor of support intended to help a party become self-sufficient.

The California legislature codified the court’s ruling into state law in 2000 as Family Code Section 4330. This law states that:

“When making an order for spousal support, the court may advise the recipient of support that the recipient should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for their support needs.”

This is now an important part of California divorce law, and you should always discuss with your attorney how the Gavron Warning in your case might affect you.

Receiving the Gavron Warning

It can be stressful – or even terrifying – to be in the position of receiving a Gavron Warning. If you were someone who did not work or worked minimally due to your spouse’s financial support of the household, getting divorced is already a scary prospect in many situations. While you dedicated your efforts to caring for children and the household, you likely lost a significant amount of employability due to a lack of experience or training. You might have taken care of things while your spouse received advanced degrees and built an extensive resume, and now you are not able to find gainful employment to support yourself.

While spousal support is available to help you maintain the standard of living you previously enjoyed, it is only intended to be for a limited time in most cases. You are expected to take steps to become self-sufficient, and this becomes a legal expectation when the Gavron Warning is issued. If you fail to make reasonable efforts in a reasonable time, you should be aware that you could lose your spousal support.

It is important to understand that what constitutes a “reasonable period of time” will differ from case to case. Generally speaking, for marriages that lasted less than ten years, you would have half of the time you were married to be able to support yourself under the Gavron Warning. The best course of action is generally to take any possible steps as soon as possible to support yourself instead of being tempted to rely on spousal support for a period of time. This will help ensure that if your spousal support award is reduced or terminated early, you will have the financial stability and employment that you need.

For the Supporting Spouse

If you are a party who is ordered to pay spousal support, you should understand your rights in regard to the Gavron Warning, as well. First, if the court does not automatically issue the warning to your former spouse, your attorney can request that it does so. Be aware that in some cases involving long marriages, the court is not obligated to issue a Gavron Warning. This might be the case if your former spouse is older or is otherwise unemployable or minimally employable.

If the notice is given, and your spouse fails to make reasonable efforts to support themselves, your attorney can request a modification or even termination of your spousal support order. Your former spouse might need to undergo a vocational evaluation to determine whether they are able to work or should be able to work if they had made the effort to do so.

While spousal support can be critical to many people following a divorce, it can also put a strain on your finances, as well. You should not have to continue paying spousal support indefinitely if your former spouse is capable of becoming self-sufficient though simply chooses not to.

No matter what side you are on of a spousal support order, it is important that you understand how the Gavron Warning might impact your financial future. You should have an experienced California divorce attorney on your side throughout your divorce, informing you of your rights every step of the way.