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Dumas v. Milotte

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

January 12, 2016

CAROLYN H. DUMAS
v.
IAN D. MILOTTE

         Submitted on Briefs December 17, 2015

          On the briefs: Gregory J. Orso, Esq., Orso Law, P.A., York, for appellant Ian Milotte.

         Ann E. Hastings, Esq., Ann E. Hastings Law Office, P.A., Kennebunk, for cross-appellant Carolyn H. Dumas.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 395

          PER CURIAM

          [¶1] Ian D. Milotte appeals and Carolyn H. Dumas cross-appeals from a child support order included in a judgment issued by the District Court (York, Janelle, J. ) establishing parental rights and responsibilities regarding their minor child. The judgment did not include findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the applicable elements of the child support calculation. Milotte moved for the court to issue findings and conclusions on those issues, and the court denied Milotte's motion. The denial of Milotte's motion was erroneous because of the requirements of Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). We therefore vacate that portion of the judgment addressing child support and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶2] Milotte and Dumas are the parents of a child born in 2012. In December 2014, Dumas commenced this action for a determination of their parental rights and responsibilities. A hearing on Dumas's complaint and Milotte's counterclaim was held in April 2015. At the hearing, the parties presented evidence bearing on parental rights and responsibilities, including the various financial considerations necessary to determine their child support responsibilities. See 19-A M.R.S. § § 2001-2012 (2014).[1] In this case, the considerations central to calculating child support were the incomes both of the primary care provider (Dumas) and of the non-primary care provider (Milotte) to determine the basic support entitlement, see 19-A M.R.S. § 2006(1) (2014), and the cost of childcare, see id. § 2006(3)(A). The parties contested each of those components of the child support computation based on the following evidence.

          [¶3] First, regarding Dumas's income, the court was presented with evidence that as a self-employed farrier, she worked 30 hours per week. She testified that she chose not to work more " [b]ecause I'm a mother." Her weekly income was $600 for 48 weeks per year and $1,000 for the remaining four weeks. She testified that she " always" takes a quarterly bonus but that there have been only two such payments: $5,333 for the last quarter of 2014, and $1,800 for the first quarter of 2015. For 2014, she reported gross receipts of $40,000, but taxable income of approximately $27,000 in part because she claimed a depreciation expense of approximately $2,700 arising from her purchase of a horse trailer, and deductible transportation

Page 396

expenses of nearly $9,000. She further testified that she did not expect a change between her 2014 and 2015 income levels. The court determined that Dumas' annual income for child support purposes was $30,000 but did not explain the basis for this determination.

          [¶4] Second, as to Milotte's income, the evidence showed that he is employed as a medical marijuana cultivator. The court was presented with evidence that he worked 30 hours per week and, at the time of the hearing, earned an hourly wage of $13.50, having recently received a raise from $11 per hour. Milotte testified that he sets his work schedule based on his contact schedule with the child. In his child support affidavit, see M.R. Civ. P. 108(a), he reported annual income of $17,160. Again without explaining its reasoning, the court determined that Milotte's annual income was $25,000.

          [¶5] Third, the issue of the childcare expense was contested at the hearing. Undisputed evidence established that the daily cost of childcare was $43. The child had been attending daycare two days per week, and in their child support affidavits, both parties quantified the weekly childcare expense to be $86. Dumas, however, testified that the child's best interest would be served if he attended daycare five days per week, and Milotte's position was that he should have contact with the child during some of the time Dumas contended the child should spend at daycare. In the worksheet accompanying the child support order, the court found that the proper weekly amount of childcare was $215, which is ...


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