The “Gavron warning” is a legal concept relating to spousal support (“alimony”) that originated in California family law. Read on to learn more about what a Gavron warning is and the potential impact it may have on your family law case.

How Alimony Works

Spousal support attempts to confront the fact that divorcing spouses do not usually enjoy equal earning power. If the price of divorce for the poorer spouse was a financial catastrophe, they would essentially be chained to the marriage. As this might be because they chose to devote themselves to domestic chores rather than outside employment, alimony is a way of evening the playing field.  

Under the spousal support system, the court will compel the wealthier spouse to provide financial support to the poorer spouse. This arrangement is not supposed to last forever—it should last only until the receiving spouse develops the ability to support themselves. 

Courts generally terminate spousal support after a period of years, although there are still some cases where the obligation continues until one party dies.

Alimony in Short-term vs. Long-term Marriages

Courts generally define a marriage as “short-term” if it lasts fewer than 10 years, and “long-term” if it lasts 10 years or more. When a short-term marriage ends in divorce, the general presumption is that a spouse receiving spousal support should not receive it for longer than half the time that the marriage endured. 

For example, if the marriage endured for six years before divorce, the receiving spouse should not receive spousal support for more than three years.

By contrast, when a long-term marriage ends in divorce, courts do not necessarily limit spousal support to half the number of years that the marriage endured. If a marriage lasted 20 years, for example, the receiving spouse might get more or less than 10 years of spousal support.

One of the concerns that motivates this disparity is that after a long-term marriage, the financially weaker spouse is likely to need more time to build their earning capacity.

What Is a Gavron Warning?

A Gavron warning is a warning that a family court judge issues to the spouse receiving support. The judge tells the receiving spouse that the court expects them to begin taking steps toward financial self-sufficiency. 

If they don’t, the court can eventually cut off spousal support. A family court will not “cut off”  a receiving spouse, however, until two things have happened. The court must have issued the warning, and the receiving spouse must have failed to comply within a reasonable time.

Enforcement of the Gavron Warning

If a receiving spouse ignores a Gavron warning for long enough, a judge might treat failure to comply as a “change in circumstances.” This might justify a modification of spousal support payments. In this case, a judge might impute income to the receiving spouse. 

In other words, the judge will treat the receiving spouse as if they really are earning the amount of money that the judge believes they should be earning. They will then calculate spousal support accordingly. 

This could mean a reduction or even a complete elimination of spousal support. Remember, however, that Gavron warnings do NOT apply to child support payments. 

Issuance and Enforcement of the Gavron Warning Is Discretionary

A judge does not have to issue a Gavron warning to a receiving spouse–they enjoy discretion. Even if the judge does issue a Gavron warning, they have the discretion to refrain from enforcing it. 

How The Gavron Warning Concept Applies to Georgia Family Law

Georgia family law does not include any provisions for a Gavron warning. It does employ Gavron-like reasoning, however. In most cases, courts expect spousal support to end at some point. They expect the receiving spouse to take steps to become self-supporting within a reasonable time. A Georgia court might also “cut off” or reduce spousal support, but not child support.

Talk to an Experienced Family Lawyer for Help

A lot is at stake when one party seeks to modify a spousal support arrangement. Be careful, as the law in this area is complex and nuanced. 

It’s probably not a good idea for you to attempt to represent yourself, no matter which side you are on. Talk to a family lawyer as soon as you can so that you can protect your rights and interests.

Contact the Divorce Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our family & divorce law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.