If you are divorcing, you may be thinking about spousal support and the effect it will have on you. If you are the spouse expected to pay spousal support, you may be wondering if you’ll be making these payments for decades to come. If you are on the other end, and will be receiving payments, you may be concerned with when those payments will stop and you will need to become self-supporting.
In California, spousal support is not permanent. Even if payments continue for decades, the amount of those payments can be reduced significantly over time.
Definition of “Gavron Warning”
In California, a Gavron warning is an admonishment given by a family law judge to a spouse receiving spousal support. The warning puts the supported spouse on notice that he or she has an affirmative obligation to become self-supporting within a reasonable time. Spousal support cannot be reduced or terminated until after the warning has been given.
Are You Concerned About Your Spousal Support Payments?
A Gavron warning stems from a California appellate court case, Marriage of Gavron. In this California divorce case, the supported spouse was the ex-wife. She was unemployed and had no valuable job skills. After six years of spousal support, her former husband argued that she should have used this time to gain the skills needed to become employed.
This essentially shifted the burden to the supported spouse to demonstrate her need for the support to continue. The court agreed with the ex-husband and granted him a modification in spousal payments.
In response to the case, the California legislature created Family Code Section 4330. It states that, when making an order for spousal support, the court should advise the recipient that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her own support.
A Gavron warning request essentially asks the court to put the spouse seeking spousal support on notice that he or she must become self-sufficient, or at least evidence of diligence in an attempt to become self-supporting. Failing to take the necessary steps to support oneself could lead to a reduction or termination of support.
Have You Received a Gavron Warning and Wondering What to Do Now?
California law states that “fair notice” must be given. In each divorce, the supported spouse’s situation will be different, as will the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. When issuing a Gavron warning and determining the time frame in which a spouse should become self-sufficient, the judge must take these, among other factors, into consideration.
When it comes to the duration of a spousal support obligation, the general rule of thumb is that for shorter marriages, those lasting less than 10 years, the supported spouse should expect support to last roughly only half the length of the marriage. So, if you were married for 8 years, you would be expected to become self-sufficient in four years.
For marriages lasting at least 10 years, the duration of spousal support is indefinite. However, even in long term marriages, you have a duty to become self-sufficient as soon as is reasonably possible.
Anytime a party requests modification to the spousal support order, the judge must look at several factors, including the supported spouse’s educational background and work history to determine exactly what that “reasonable” amount of time would be for each case. For instance, a wife who has dedicated her time to the rearing of her children and maintenance of home life over the course of her 20 year marriage wouldn’t be evaluated the same as a husband who, while earning less than his wife of 20 years, still has a strong educational background and 30 year work history.
When a Gavron warning is given, the exact words spoken are generally:
“It is the goal of this state that each party will make reasonable good faith efforts to become self-supporting as provided for in Family Code section 4320. The failure to make reasonable good faith efforts may be one of the factors considered by the court as a basis for modifying or terminating spousal or partner support.”
Reasonable good faith efforts could be seeking out additional education or vocational training opportunities for spouses with little to no work experience, obtaining a part-time job to gain work experience and seeking opportunities that will lead to full-time, gainful employment by the date the spousal support is set to end.
No matter which side of the Gavron warning you may be on, the experienced attorneys at Griffith, Young and Lass are here to help. If you have been issued a Gavron warning, we can help you create the steps that will lead to your self-sufficiency. If you are the one paying spousal support, we will help you obtain the most reasonable amount of time for which you will pay support. Schedule your free consultation with our experienced spousal support attorneys.
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