Superior Court Vacates Cumberland County Court Order Which Reduced and Terminated Alimony Award

by Laurie A. Saltzgiver, Esquire

In Speaker v. Speaker, 468 MDA 2017, filed March 16, 2018, Husband filed a Petition requesting a modification or termination of his alimony Order with the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas. Husband claimed that there was a substantial change in circumstances in that he had a number of medical conditions and intended to retire in a few years. During the course of discovery, the deposition of Husband’s doctor was taken and the doctor testified that Husband was undergoing a new course of treatment and he believed that course of treatment would be successful. Husband testified that although his income had increased since the entry of the alimony Order, that he intended to retire in a few years time and his retirement was a change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification of the alimony Order. Husband requested a decrease in alimony and an ultimate date of termination of the alimony Order. The Trial Court granted Husband’s request and ordered a decrease in alimony in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and terminated the alimony Order effective 2020.

Wife appealed the issue to the Superior Court. Wife’s appeal claimed the Trial Court did not consider all issues, including the factors for alimony set forth in the Divorce Code, and claimed that the Cumberland County Court had a “personal bias against indefinite alimony”. Wife argued that Husband’s desire to retire in the future was not a substantial and continuing change in circumstances which warranted a modification of the alimony Order. The Superior Court agreed with Wife and acknowledged that Husband’s request for modification was premature as he claimed he intended to retire “in the future”.

The Superior Court did not specifically address Wife’s claim that the Cumberland County Court had a personal bias against indefinite alimony. The Superior Court did, however, point out that the Trial Court failed to follow the dictates of the Divorce Code and relevant caselaw.