JANICE W. DUNWOODY
STEVEN M. DUNWOODY
Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2016
Timothy E. Robbins, Esq., South Portland, for appellant
Steven M. Dun woody
Schultz McEvoy, Esq., for appellee Janice W. Dunwoody
SAUFLEY. C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
Steven M. Dunwoody appeals from a judgment of the District
Court (Portland, Powers, J.) adopting the decision
of the Family Law Magistrate [Najahan, M.) over
Steven's objection. The magistrate granted Steven's
request to modify child support but denied his request for a
declaration that he did not owe any past due support. Steven
argues on appeal that the magistrate should have determined
that he had prevailed on at least one equitable defense to
any attempt to collect child support arrearages. We affirm
Steven M. Dunwoody and Janice W. Dunwoody were divorced by a
judgment dated November 13, 2001. Steven, who receives
disability benefits, was ordered to pay child support pursuant
to three orders covering different periods of time,
apparently due to anticipated changes in the parties'
Steven has never directly paid child support, but the
children received dependent benefits based on Steven's
disability. At some times, the dependent benefits paid to the
children exceeded the amount of child support ordered by the
court, and at other times there was a deficiency. During the
period when Steven's support obligation exceeded the
disability benefits, the cumulative deficiency was $21, 978.
Both parties assumed that because the children were receiving
dependent disability benefits, Steven did not have to make
any child support payments himself.
Sometime before February 19, 2014, Janice applied for child
support enforcement services from the Department of Health
and Human Services, and the Department issued a notice of
debt. On June 24, 2014, Steven filed a motion in the District
Court seeking a modification of his child support obligation
and a declaration that he did not owe any arrearages.
See M.R. Civ. P. 120(a). He argued that he was
entitled to a credit against any past due child support for
the period during which the dependent disability benefits
exceeded his monthly child support obligation. Steven alleged
that during this period, the dependent disability payments
exceeded his obligation by a total of $33, 000. In the
alternative, Steven argued that the equitable defenses of
laches, waiver, and equitable estoppel precluded Janice from
collecting any past due child support.
The magistrate issued an order on December 22, 2015, granting
Steven's motion to modify child support, but denying his
request for a declaration that he did not owe past support.
The magistrate concluded that
child support statutes precluded crediting the excess of the
dependent disability benefits over his support obligation
against his past due support and
undisputed facts did not generate any equitable defenses. The
order established that Steven owed $21, 978 in past due child
Steven filed a timely objection to the magistrate's final
judgment on January 8, 2016. See M.R. Civ. P.
118(a). The District Court entered an order adopting the
magistrate's judgment on February 2, 2016. Steven timely
appealed. Se ...