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Understanding Gavron Warnings in Spousal Support Cases

What is a Gavron Warning?

A Gavron Warning is an admonition given to a person in a divorce action who is receiving spousal support. The "supported party" is formally advised of their duty or responsibility to be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time after receiving an award of spousal support.

The name "Gavron" comes from the family law case where it was determined that a party must first be aware of the court's expectations of self-sufficiency before support could be modified downward. The accompanying phrase "warning" is appropriate because the failure to take necessary steps to be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time is often the basis for a reduction or termination of support.

How are Gavron Warnings given?

Gavron warnings come about in various ways and are often very suttle. Sometimes, they are expressly given by a Judge in open court, such as at the time of trial when spousal support orders are given. More often, they are cleverly hidden in marital settlement agreements as one of many sentences under the spousal support provisions. They are also included on most judical council forms for dissolution judgments.

What does it mean to have received a Gavron Warning?

We have all heard the phrase "If you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day. But if you teach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime." Receiving a Gavron Warning is like being told by the court to "go learn how to fish."

If you have received a Gavron warning you are legally on notice that you must seek to be fully self-supportive within a reasonable period of time, or face dire consequences. Sure, you will be handed your "daily fish" (i.e., spousal support) for a period of time, but if you do not use your time wisely, your "free fish" will be taken away, perhaps sooner rather than later. Even long term spousal support orders are not intended to last forever.

What is a "Reasonable Period of Time"?

That depends. It may be a matter of months or years. Likely, the Court's definition of "reasonable time" might well be substanitially different than yours. That's because the Court generally expects individuals to earn bread by the sweat of their own brow, and not the brow of others.

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