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PA Court Holds that Support Order is Modifiable due to Parkinson’s Disease

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A recent Pennsylvania case featured two ex-spouses who disagreed whether the husband was entitled to a modification of their existing support order.

In the case, Windley v. Schwarz, the spouses were divorced in New Hampshire and thereafter agreed to a uniform support order. Under the agreed upon order, the husband was to pay the wife $750 per month in alimony for eight years.

A key fact of the case was that the husband had Parkinson’s disease and knew about it when he and the wife agreed to the spousal support order. After the agreement, the husband’s Parkinson’s progressed and his condition deteriorated to the point where he could no longer work and moved in to his mother’s house in Pennsylvania.

While living in Pennsylvania, the husband filed a petition in Pennsylvania court to modify the existing support order. The court applied New Hampshire law, which allows for a modification of a support order only when there is a change in circumstances that is neither anticipated nor foreseeable at the time of the agreement.

Here, the court found that even though the husband knew he had Parkinson’s at the time of his agreement with his ex-wife, neither he or his ex-wife could have foreseen the fast progression of his disease and the toll it would take on his ability to work. The court therefore ruled that the existing support order was modifiable and scheduled a hearing to determine the parties’ current monthly incomes and any outstanding arrearages or overpayments.

Pennsylvania law also allows for modifications of support orders when circumstances have changed for one or both of the parties.

If you have an existing support order that you seek to modify, or if you are considering divorce and want to learn what your options are regarding spousal support and/or alimony, please do not hesitate to contact the family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera.

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