I recently wrote an article on an interesting ruling regarding the modifiability of permanent alimony. The case explored how an unexpected, income-changing illness impacts permanent alimony.

The couple, Gregg Joseph Fasulo and Sara D’arcy Crocker-Fasulo, were married in 1982. The husband was an orthopedic surgeon and the wife was a stay-at-home mother to their children. The couple separated in 1998 and the wife later filed for divorce in 2009. The trial court ordered the wife to retain the marital home but to sell or refinance within three years. The husband was required to maintain a $1 million life insurance policy payable to the wife. In addition, he was to pay her permanent alimony of $8,500 per month.

In 2012, the husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which forced to resign from his practice as he was unable to perform surgeries and see patients. Fortunately for him, he was eligible to collect $27,000 per month in disability benefits, which expired at the end of 2022. Due to his ever-increasing medical expenses, he tapped into his savings and IRA. As a result of his diagnosis, the former husband and wife agreed to multiple reductions to the alimony payment.

In August 2021, the husband filed a petition to terminate alimony, which at the time was $3,750 per month. The court reduced the alimony award to $2,500 monthly, and the husband appealed. Ultimately, the ruling stood.

Click here to read the full details of the case, where the following lessons were learned:

  • While “permanent” alimony typically terminates upon the payor’s retirement if a normal retirement age, this case set itself apart from commonly held beliefs of family law practitioners.
  • The case reminds us that alimony orders entered by a trial court are always modifiable upon a substantial change in circumstances. Furthermore, the case reiterates that in alimony modification or termination cases, the court must apply the 17-factor analysis for alimony case.
  • After considering the 17 factors, the court found the husband’s substantial post-separation assets still placed him in a better financial position to the wife. As his Parkinson’s Disease progresses, he is free to file a new petition in the future once his health care costs increase.
  • Interestingly, the case also debunks the belief that any petition for modification of alimony is automatically modifiable retroactive to the date of filing. Instead, retroactivity is within the trial court’s discretion.
  • Lastly, the court ordered the husband to continue to fund a $1,000,000 life insurance policy, despite his argument that it was equivalent to 400 months of alimony. The court did not consider his age, health issues, or the cost of maintaining such a policy.

The attorney you choose to represent you in any divorce is important, but especially in one that involves complex issues like alimony. If you are seeking a Bucks County attorney for divorce proceedings, or if you have questions about the financial implications of divorce in Pennsylvania, we can help. Contact us at 215-340-2207 or email info@bucksfamilylawyers.com.