One of the biggest misconceptions about alimony is that it lasts forever. At least here in the state of California, this is usually not the case. While the intent of alimony is to act as protection for a person who may have become financially dependent of their former spouse, its main purpose is to be in place until the person receiving the payments can become financially independent.
A Gavron Warning is when the judge gives notice to the recipient of the alimony that they must make reasonable efforts to become partially or fully financially independent of their former spouse. However, like with most legal issues, people must understand multiple aspects concerning Gavron warnings.
What Is a Gavron Warning?
Family Code Section 4330 defines a Gavron warning per the following: “(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 it says, “may advise.” This is a tool at the judge’s disposal to use at their discretion. Remember that the job of the judge is to make sure that not only is the law followed, but that decisions serve justice in the grey areas. The judge may decide whether to give a Gavron warning depending on the circumstances. The supporting party or their attorney may ask the court to issue a Gavron warning, though the judge will make the final decision.
In some cases, a Gavron warning – or something similar to it – is present in the wording of the divorce agreement, generally as a way of putting a set time limit on the length of time the supporting party must pay alimony.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Marriages
California defines a long-term marriage as having lasted ten years or more. However, certain conditions can qualify shorter marriages as long-term, such as domestic violence or the age of the individuals. The reason the classification matters is because divorces after long-term marriages usually allow for longer periods of alimony. For instance, as a general rule, marriages lasting shorter than ten years usually allow for alimony periods of half of the length of the marriage (e.g., eight years of marriage resulting in four years of alimony), whereas long-term marriages typically allow for longer periods of time.
Additionally, judges may issue Gavron warnings early on after the divorce in the case of a shorter marriage but hold off for longer periods of time for long-term marriage divorces. Again, the judge has discretion in this matter, so he or she can give a reasonable time to be fair to both sides.
Can a Judge Issue Gavron Warning for Temporary Alimony?
While the law doesn’t differentiate between temporary or permanent alimony, there would usually not be a reason for a judge to issue a warning in the case of temporary alimony. Most temporary alimony orders end after a few months or up to a few years. A judge probably would not consider such a warning except in the rare or extreme situation.
Would Gavron Warnings Affect Child Support?
Gavron Warnings are never issued for child support. This provision is only for alimony arrangements. Child support is technically a matter between a child and parent regardless of who receives the funds. As an example, if a man is paying his ex-wife child support, even though the check is in her name, it’s intended for the child, so Gavron warnings would not be applicable.