Navigating Health Care Costs for Divorced Families


Navigating Health Care Costs for Divorced Families

health care and divorce

Families that have experienced divorce may find navigating health care costs extremely difficult.  The topic can be complicated, especially when both parents work and have health care coverage through their jobs.  It is very important to understand how California courts view healthcare coverage for children in the context of divorce and to craft a settlement agreement that aligns with these views.

Mandated Health Insurance Coverage

The first thing to understand about California child support agreements is that someone must pay for the child’s health care.  It is not an option for both parents to ignore this important feature of maintaining the child’s health and welfare.  Every child support order signed in the state of California must include a provision for medical support.  This amount is in addition to the guideline child support amount. 

According to California law, medical support falls under Family Court jurisdiction and one or both parents are mandated to provide the child with health insurance as long as the coverage is available at a “reasonable” cost.  Health insurance coverage includes medical, dental and vision coverage.

The most important thing parents must determine is what health care coverage cost is reasonable.  In general, the courts have held that reasonable plans do not exceed five percent of a parent’s gross income.  Most group health insurance policies available through employers are viable sources of health care coverage for children.

For parents who end up paying the health care insurance premiums, however, there is one benefit:  the cost appears as a line-item deduction on the child support guideline calculations.  Therefore, both parents theoretically contribute to the cost:  one by paying and the other through a reduction in total child support amount.

Failure to pay for health care insurance is tantamount to failing to pay child support, and the same penalties may apply to parents who drop coverage on a child.

Paying Uninsured Costs

In general, most arguments between parents over health care expenses occur as a result of one parent authorizing treatment that is not covered by insurance and then expecting the other parent to pay.  Many agreements provide that parents split such costs equally; however, one parent may object to the other’s authorization of any treatment that is not covered by insurance.  In some cases, the objecting parent may be able to force the other parent to pay the entire cost.

For more information about your rights as a parent, contact Men’s Legal Center in San Diego.

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