Gavron Warning in California Divorces

Learn about Gavron warnings, its definition and application in California divorce and spousal support cases

Gavron Warning in California Family Law

Gavron warnings in a California divorce have complex layers

The term Gavron warning comes from a California appellate court decision called Marriage of Gavron. Since the Gavron appellate decision over 20 years ago, the California legislature has created Family Code section of 4330. In this article, we will look at some common questions about Gavron warnings.

This article is not legal advice. If you have questions about your specific situation, please have a private consultation with a family law attorney.

If you have a matter in Southern California, our divorce lawyers are available for an affordable strategy session.

Gavron Warning Definition

There is no set definition for a Gavron warning. However, Family Code 4330(b) has codified the Gavron decision and therefore given guidance on what the warning (or advisement) is.

Family Code 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."

Notice two important parts of this code section I have bolded for emphasis. First, the word "may advise" means the court does not have to give a Gavron warning. Second, the code section specifically tells family law judges that they can decide to not give it at all in a marriage of long duration. In some respects, this is saying the same thing twice. Since a Gavron warning is discretionary, the Family Court could give it or not give it. 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.

How is a Gavron warning in a California family law case given?

A Gavron warning can be given verbally by the Court or in writing. The most common way to give a Gavron warning is in a written judgment, whether that judgment is stipulated (agreed upon) or after a contested divorce trial.

Why would a Gavron warning not be given in a long term marriage?

It may be given in a long term marriage and sometimes it is. However, imagine a situation where the spouses are older and the spouse asking for support is entering her or his later, non-income producing years of life. Is it really reasonable to expect that spouse to ever become self supporting? To be given a Gavron warning? It's a fact specific question. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Is a Gavron warning appropriate regardless of whether the supported spouse is employed?

Once again, the Family Court has discretion. Let's assume the spouse requesting and receiving spousal support is employed. Is it appropriate to give a Gavron warning? It may be. Just because a spouse is employed doesn't mean he or she isn't required and shouldn't be told that he or she is required to make reasonable efforts to become self supporting. This is especially true when the supported spouse is underemployed. The same applies to a spouse who is not employed. On this issue, a request for a vocational evaluation may be wise.

How much time should be given to a spouse to make reasonable efforts to assist in his or her support needs after a Gavron warning?

Assume a Gavron warning is given. How much time needs to pass to give that spouse who received the Gavron warning to make reasonable efforts to assist with his or her support needs? California law has generally stated "fair" notice. Is that ambiguous? You bet it is. That is because it doesn't make much sense to set a strict timeline on it. Every case is going to have its own unique circumstances. The spouse who has a work history, education and the skills to become employed within a year shouldn't be treated the same as one who hasn't worked for 30 years and only has a high school diploma.

Is a Gavron Warning proper for temporary spousal support?

California Family Code 4330 refers to an "order" and its language does not limit it to a temporary versus a trial (or post judgment) order. Therefore, the Court may have the discretion to give a Gavron warning with a temporary spousal support order. However, in our experience, that would be a little unusual. After all, how long would a temporary order really be in effect? That is why Gavron warnings are more common, if they are going to be given, at the time of judgment.

Is a Gavron warning appropriate for child support situations?

Gavron warnings are intended for spousal support situations, not child support. However, California Family Code 4053 does state, in part; "Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children." Responsibility to support one's children doesn't just fall on the higher earning parent. To learn more, check out our guide on California child support laws.

Have questions about a Gavron warning in your specific situation?

Whether you are the one who wants a Gavron warning to be given to your spouse or the one on the potential receiving end of one, you should privately consult with an attorney about your options. Legal advice can be important in such situations. Our law firm handles matters in each of the seven Southern California courts. Our offices are located Orange County and Los Angeles.

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