Joint custody means that both parents are involved in raising their children. They both spend time with their children and make the important decisions about their children together.. However, one parent will usually have primary custody, while the other parent will be the non-custodial parent and have possession and visitation rights.
Generally, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent to cover the children’s living expenses, including food, clothing, housing, schooling, and more.
In addition, child support also involves providing for the children’s medical needs. Legally, parents are required to pay for their children’s medical expenses. The question is, who pays for the medical care of children in joint custody?
Often, one or both of the parents can include the children on the health insurance policy they get through their employers. That’s the easiest and often most affordable way to handle the children’s medical expenses, at least aside from various co-pays and deductibles.
If that is not an option because neither of the parents has an employer that provides them with health insurance, one of them needs to buy private health insurance to cover their children’s medical needs.
If that person is the non-custodial parent, they would pay for it directly. If it is the custodial parent, they would then be reimbursed by the non-custodial parent. The insurance payments or reimbursements would be made in addition to the child support payments.
If the parents don’t agree on how to pay for the children’s healthcare expenses, both of them may need to consult an experienced family law attorney. Ultimately, a judge may end up determining how the various medical expenses, including deductibles and copayments are to be handled. Rules for that are laid out in federal laws, including in the Affordable Care Act.
How Much Should Each Party Pay for Medical Expenses?
When the parties don’t have health insurance through their employers that would cover their children, things get more complicated. Health insurance is expensive.
Usually, it is the non-custodial parent who pays child support to the parent who has primary custody of the children, although the specifics will depend on the income of the two parties. The same is true for medical support payments, which are in addition to child support payments. And that’s not all. In Texas, medical support can also include payments for dental care.
Fortunately, Texas law only requires that the parents purchase medical and dental coverage if it can be acquired at a reasonable cost. And what is considered reasonable is 9% or less of the non-custodial parent’s gross income for medical expenses and 1.5% of their gross income for dental coverage.
Still, these amounts can be substantial when added to the child support payments. A skilled child custody attorney will be able to help you sort out what to do.
There are also medical expenses that are not covered by insurance, They are essentially uninsured medical expenses and other expenses that are not covered. First, there are out-of-pocket payments until the deductible is met.
In addition, the uncovered expenses can be copayments or coinsurance, or they could be special items that need to be paid for out of pocket. The child may also have to see out-of-network specialists, which will cost more or may not be covered at all.
Uncovered medical expenses can also be part of dental care or orthodontics. The issue that can come up and cause conflict among parents is whether the orthodontist is sought out for cosmetic reasons, or whether the child has serious bite problems that cause pain and discomfort and really need to be corrected.
Those extra costs are usually divided among the parents either equally and they are in addition to the regular payments for medical and dental expenses. If one or both of the parties have a health savings account, that will also affect who pays what percentage of the extra expenses, especially if the employer contributes to the account.
Help for Lower Income Parents
Not all parents make enough money to pay for pricey health insurance, yet they are still required to meet the legal requirements for medical and dental support for their children.
What can parents do if they don’t have insurance through work and their income is too low to afford private insurance? They do have other options.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they can get a subsidized healthcare plan through HealthCare.gov. In addition, they can apply to qualify for government programs, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
It is also possible to request a review of the court order that requires you to carry the insurance for your children if you can no longer afford it. Your child support lawyer can help you with making changes to your court order so that it becomes more manageable.
For How Long Must the Medical Support Payments Be Made?
Are you wondering for how long the medical support payments need to be made? Essentially as long as the other child support payments have to be paid. Both are required until a child is either 18 or has graduated successfully from high school, whichever comes later. The payments also stop if the child gets married, is emancipated, or dies before turning 18.
How to Get Help
If you have questions or concerns about how to pay for your children’s medical care and who should pay for what, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney. Call or email us for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to talk to you.