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Dept. of Human Services v. Monty
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT						Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1998 ME 11 
Docket:	Cum-97-143
on Briefs:	December 12, 1997  
Decided:	January 14, 1998



	[¶1]  Charles Monty appeals from the judgment entered in the
Superior Court (Cumberland County, MacNichol, J.) establishing his child
support obligations.  Charles contends that the court erred by treating the
settlements he received as the result of two lawsuits as "gross income" for
the purposes of determining his child support obligations, pursuant to 19
M.R.S.A. § 311(5)(A){1}.  We agree and vacate the judgment
	[¶2]  Susan Monty and Charles Monty were divorced in 1989 and
Charles was ordered to pay weekly child support.  This amount was modified
by court order in December, 1992, when Charles enrolled in law school. 
During the time Charles was attending law school, he received, after fees
and costs, $50,000 in settlement of two law suits.{2}  The Department of
Human Services (DHS) filed a M.R. Civ. P. 60(b) Motion for Relief from Order
seeking to modify Charles's child support obligations in light of these
settlements.  Following a series of motions, cross motions, and
continuances, the parties entered into a stipulation accepted by the court
which read:

By agreement of the parties, the issue of whether the
Defendant's child support obligation for February 1993 and
thereafter should be modified (pursuant to subparagraph (9) of
paragraph (i) of the child support guidelines which allows the
court to deviate from the guidelines) based upon his receipt of
funds from a personal injury settlement in the approximate
amount of $30,000 on February 1, 1993 and $20,000 in 1994 is
hereby submitted for decision on this record together with the
arguments of the parties.

	[¶3]  Using the forms provided by DHS, the court proceeded to enter
child support orders based on Charles's gross income for the years 1993
through 1998.  Included in the calculation of Charles's gross income were
the amounts received by Charles in 1993 and 1994 in settlement of his
lawsuits.  The child support orders were, therefore, computed solely on the
amount of money Charles received and were not based on a deviation from
the statutory child support guidelines.  This appeal followed.
	[¶4]  We review a trial court's interpretation of a statute for errors of
law.  Daniels v. Tew Mac Aero Servs., Inc., 675 A.2d 984, 987 (Me. 1996). 
We first examine the plain meaning of the statutory language, seeking to give
effect to the legislative intent and to construe that language to avoid absurd,
inconsistent, unreasonable, or illogical results.  Thibeault v. Larson, 666 A.2d
112, 114 (Me. 1995).  Only when the statutory language is ambiguous do we
look beyond its plain meaning and examine other indicia of legislative intent.
Berube v. Rust Eng'g, 668 A.2d 875, 876 (Me. 1995). 
	[¶5]  Subchapter I-A of Title 19 governs the determination of child
support in this case.  The total child support obligation is divided between
the parties in proportion to their respective gross incomes. 19 M.R.S.A. §
316(3).  "Gross income" is defined as follows:

5. Gross income.  "Gross income" means gross income of a party
as follows.
A. Gross income includes income from any ongoing
source including, but not limited to, salaries, wages,
commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends,       
severance pay, pensions, interest, trust funds,
annuities, capital gains, social security benefits,
disability insurance benefits, prizes, workers'      
compensation benefits, spousal support actually
received pursuant to a preexisting order, and
education grants, fellowships or subsidies that are     
available for personal living expenses.  Gross income
does not include child support received by either
party for children other than children for whom
support is being determined. 

19 M.R.S.A. § 311(5)(A) (Supp. 1996) (emphasis added).
	[¶6]  The plain language of section 311 is clear -- gross income only
includes income from an "ongoing source."  A lump sum payment is not an
"ongoing source" of income.  The dictionary definition of "ongoing" is
"going on; going forward." Webster's New International Dictionary, 1703
(2nd ed. 1960).  A lump sum settlement is not an ongoing source of income
because the source does not persist but rather vanishes upon satisfaction of
the settlement agreement.  Section 317 of Title 19, not section 311,
provides the court with an avenue to deviate from the statutory guidelines in
order to reach such "nonrecurring income not included in the definition of
gross income."  19 M.R.S.A. § 317(3)(E).
	The entry is:
Judgment vacated. Remanded for proceedings
consistent with this opinion.

Attorneys for Plaintiff: Andrew Ketterer, Esq. Attorney General Mary B. Najarian, Esq. Peter Brann, Esq. Assistant Attorneys General 6 State House Station Augusta, Maine 04333-0006 Attorney for Defendant: Ralph W. Brown, Esq. 19 Candlewyck Road Portland, Maine 04l02
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} 19 M.R.S.A. §§ 311-319 were repealed on October 1, 1997. The new statutes governing child support guidelines are now found at Title 19-A, Chapter 63. No substantive changes were made to the legislation affecting the issues in this case. {2} Charles received approximately $30,000 in 1993 in settlement of a personal injury claim arising from an automobile accident. Charles received approximately $20,000 in 1994 in settlement of a medical malpractice claim.