Shelhammer v. Hodges

Shelhammer v. Hodges, 2016 MT 29 (Feb. 9, 2016) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether a parent’s military housing and subsistence allowances are part of the parent’s actual income when calculating child support obligations.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: Shelhammer and Hodges are the parents of AS. CSED ordered Shelhammer to pay Hodges $74/month child support in October 1999. In May 2014, Hodges filed a request for review, and CSED modified Shelhammer’s obligation to $743/month.

Shelhammer requested a hearing, which was held in July 2014. He is a Marine Corps Warrant Officer, with a base annual pay of $53,309. He also received a non-taxable basic housing allowance of $25,776 a pear and a non-taxable basic subsistence allowance of $2,955 per year. The ALJ attributed to Shelhammer annual income of $82,040. Hodges was attributed $24,960, and CSED issued its final order setting Shelhammer’s obligation at $935/month beginning June 2014.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Shelhammer petitioned for judicial review, arguing the housing and subsistence allowances merely defray the cost of food and housing. The district court affirmed CSED, and Shelhammer appeals. The Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Actual income is defined by A.R.M. 37.62.105(2), and includes “economic benefit from whatever source derived,” and “allowances for expenses, flat rate payments or per diem received, except as offset by actual expenses.” The guidelines include a personal allowance for housing and food. A.R.M. 37.62.11491). Shelhammer and Hodges were each allowed $15,171 personal allowance, which was subtracted from Shelhammer’s actual income calculation.

The Court holds that “actual expenses” are additional expenses incurred because of the parent’s work, not the usual housing and food costs that every parent must pay.