Handling Medical Care for a Child after Divorce
Making medical decisions about a child and handling associated costs can be difficult even when parents remain married. These issues become even more challenging when parents are divorced. While your child’s health care coverage will be determined during the divorce, there are many other decisions and expenses related to medical care that arise later. You’ll find suggestions on how to handle some of these issues below.
Figure out in advance how you and your co-parent will transfer funds toward medical bills
Some medical expenses will be paid by the child’s health care coverage. Realistically, this covers only a portion of the expenses related to a child’s medical care, especially if the child has a condition requiring frequent treatment by specialists or expensive equipment. These unreimbursed medical expenses are handled differently from normal health insurance coverage expenses.
If one parent receives child support and is considered the parent of primary residence, then that parent will be responsible for the first $250 each year in unreimbursed medical expenses. After the first $250 in expenses, New Jersey family courts will typically allocate these expenses according to the “income shares” model. Each parent pays the portion of medical costs according to their share of the total income of the parents.
If one parent handles the majority of the child’s doctor’s appointments, determine in advance how you and your spouse will handle these unreimbursed expenses. If large costs related to medical care are rare, requesting reimbursement as they arise may make the most sense. If these expenses arise often, the parent handling these expenses up-front could submit a statement to the other parent on a quarterly or monthly basis. Be sure to retain bills and receipts that show how the medical expenses arose.
Discuss important decisions and keep one another updated on your child’s health
Both parents deserve to feel involved in making important decisions about their child’s medical treatment. You may struggle to have conversations with your co-parent that don’t turn into arguments, but it is important to find a way to have civil conversations on this subject, whether it is through email, phone calls, or text messages. Not only will your co-parent want a say in how your child’s health is managed, but you may not be able to obtain financial help for medical costs if you make decisions alone. Courts might not require a parent to contribute to unreimbursed medical expenses if you made choices about your child’s care without consulting your co-parent, if the court feels that the costs incurred weren’t reasonable.
For help negotiating a complex New Jersey divorce or legal issue regarding your child’s custody, contact the seasoned and knowledgeable Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation, at 908-964-0102.