When parents divorce, determining how each former spouse will contribute to their children’s care is one of the most important aspects of separation.
In addition to housing, clothing and educational needs, the court may make decisions regarding both health care coverage costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Which parent is legally responsible for covering these costs may depend on income, access to health care insurance and whether the parent has custodial responsibilities.
Health insurance costs
In many cases, the parent who already has employer-provided health care coverage or can more easily afford to take on a health care policy will be the one that the court requires to provide insurance coverage. However, if both parents have access to a health care plan, one parent may provide “primary” plan coverage, with the remainder of medical costs covered by the other parent’s plan.
Unreimbursed medical expenses
Insurance alone may not cover important costs related to a child’s health care needs. From copayments and deductibles to expenses related to dental, orthodontal, vision or mental health care, parents may have to share the costs for these out-of-pocket expenses. The court may base the decision of who pays these costs on the parents’ respective incomes and which parent has primary childcare responsibilities.
If one parent provides health care coverage and/or payments for unreimbursed medical expenses, those costs may impact the overall amount of child support that he or she must pay after divorce through a court order. However, parents may be able to avoid a potentially difficult financial situation by pursuing mediation or collaboration. These alternatives to traditional litigation may help both spouses to find a workable solution that meets children’s needs without putting an unnecessary burden on either parent.