A Gavron Warning, Oh No!

Husband and Wife were married for over 25 years and then divorced in 1979. By this time, their two children were adults. Wife had worked during the early part of the marriage, but was a homemaker throughout the rest of the marriage. Husband was a dentist and made a good living supporting the family. Husband was ordered to pay Wife spousal support, and he did so.

Six years after the divorce, Husband went back into court and asked that his spousal support order be reduced. The court denied his request. Four years later, he tried again. He stated that he could no longer afford to support Wife, and that Wife was capable of getting a job and supporting herself. Wife argued that she had neither the education, training, nor experience to support herself in the lifestyle she had while she was married. Further, she was physically incapable of holding a job. The trial court agreed with Husband, stating in part: “…[Wife's] failure to become employable or to seek training after so many years shift[s] the burden to her to demonstrate her continued need for support in light of her continued inaction in this regard..."

Wife appealed.

The Appellate Court overturned the trial court.

Although it agreed with the trial court that supported ex-spouses should become self-sufficient, there are times when a judge needs to warn that ex-spouse to do so or suffer the financial consequences.

Now, the so-called Gavron Warning has been codified into law as Family Code Section 4330(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.

Notice that the wording states that the court may advise the recipient of spousal support, and not must advise him or her. Also notice, that in the case of long-term marriages, a Gavon Warning may not be advisable. In both instances, it is up to the discretion of the judge to determine whether to give the warning or not give it.

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