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November 18, 2005
Case Law Development: Need for Fair Warning for Termination of Long-term Alimony
The California Court of Appeals agreed with a 61-year-old wife's argument that "the trial court manifestly abused its discretion by pulling the plug on her spousal support after 14 years had gone by without any indication from [Husband] or the court she was expected to become self-supporting through employment and giving her only three weeks to find a job." Wife had been granted $5,800 a month spousal support from her ex-husband in 1989. The decree did not contain a "Richmond order" terminating spousal support jurisdiction as of a specific date (In re Marriage of Richmond, 105 Cal. App. 3d 352 (1980)) nor a "Gavron warning" advising Judy she needed to become self-sufficient or face legal and financial consequences (In re Marriage of Gavron, 203 Cal. App. 3d 705 (1988)).
Husband brought an action to terminate the support because wife was able to earn income with her social work license, her medical expenses had substantially decreased, and she had attained an age at which she could draw upon her IRA without penalty. The court of appeals found that there was substantial evidence to justify terminating Wife's spousal support but the trial court abused its discretion in doing it so abruptly as to deny Judy reasonable notice and an opportunity to find a job.
As a remedy, the court of appeals directed that Wife's spousal support be returned to the original amount and continue until Wife "obtains employment at the rate of at least $ 2,500 per month or ceases to make a good faith effort to obtain such employment, or attains the age of 65 years, whichever occurs first."
In re Marriage of Schmir, 2005 Cal. App. LEXIS 1792 (November 16, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B175397.PDF (last visited November 17, 2005 bgf)