Gavron Warnings

In In re Marriage of Gavron (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 705, the parties had been married approximately 25 years and the former wife was 57 years old when the trial court granted the former husband's request to terminate spousal support. (Gavron, supra, 203 Cal.App.3d at p. 707.) The trial court stated the former wife's failure to become employable or to seek training after so many years shifted the burden to her to demonstrate her continued need for support. (Id. at pp. 709-710.) The appellate court reversed, stating the trial court abused its discretion. (Id. at p. 707.) In Gavron, the appellate court recognized the general principle that it is in the best interests of both spouses and society that a supported spouse becomes self-sufficient. (Gavron, supra, 203 Cal.App.3d at p. 711.) This principle, coupled with other factors, can create an expectation at the time a support order is entered that the supported spouse will become self-supporting in the future. As set forth in part I.A, ante, unrealized expectations can constitute a change of circumstances justifying a modification of spousal support. Thus, when there is an expectation that a supported spouse will work toward becoming self-supporting, "the supported spouse's failure to at least make good-faith efforts to become self-sufficient can constitute a change in circumstances which could warrant a modification in spousal support." (Id. at p. 712.) A supported spouse's reasonable expectations necessarily are based on the information available to him or her. Thus, the court in Gavron concluded that the supported spouse should be made aware of the obligation to become self-supporting and the consequences of not satisfying the obligation. (Gavron, supra, 203 Cal.App.3d at p. 712.) The court identified different ways in which a supported spouse's awareness of the expectation of self-sufficiency could be established, such as an explicit statement from the court when it issued the original support order (which became known as a Gavron warning) or a stipulated agreement addressing the wife's ability to obtain future employment. (Ibid.) The court also stated the awareness could be inferred where the order contains a reasonable termination date for the support and the supported spouse was employed during the separation and continuing through the time of the original support order. (Ibid.) In 1996, the Gavron warning was codified by the Legislature. Family Code Subdivision (b) of section 4330 provides in full: "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." Section 4336, subdivision (b) provides that "there is a presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence that a marriage of 10 years or more, from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation, is a marriage of long duration." In the present case, over 24 years passed between the date of the parties' marriage and the date of their separation. The absence of a Gavron warning is a fact relevant to the determination whether the supported spouse was aware of both an expectation to become self-supporting and the consequences of not fulfilling that expectation. (Gavron, supra, 203 Cal.App.3d at p. 712.)