Health Care

If you were to ask around of divorced parents about the health care provisions in their custody orders/agreements, you’ll find a common theme regardless of the custodial arrangement.

One parent carries the children on their health insurance coverage (usually through their employment).  Un-reimbursed medical expenses are the responsibility of the non-custodial parent (or the non-covering parent) up to the first $250.  After the first $250, the un-reimbursed medical expenses are typically split in proportion to each parent’s income.

Would it surprise you to learn that in high-conflict situations, even a seemingly straight-forward clause such as this can cause strife?

The most common issue we’ve seen is what I like to call “check trading.”  The usual generic health care clauses don’t provide for time periods for reimbursement or any details over how they should be handled.  Therefore, the high-conflict ex expects reimbursement “on demand.”  And demand they do!  It can be a personal accounting nightmare.

While we can discuss many different options for you on the forums, if you’re preparing an parenting plan and want to allow for provisions regarding health care, there are two important things to be sure to include aside from which parent is doing the coverage and the threshold for reimbursement:

  1. Every expense must be accompanied by a receipt from the care-provider, hospital, pharmacists, specialist, etc.  Otherwise, it’s not subject to being reimbursed.  No proof, no payment.
  2. Establish a time period for when the expenses shall be submitted and a deadline for reimbursement.  In the interest of fairness, even with a high-conflict ex, we believe “end of the year” is an awfully long time to wait.  Our initial recommendation would be for the owed-parent to turn in receipts by the end of each quarter.  The paying parent is required to reimburse the expenses in accordance with the order/agreement by the end of the following month.

To be sure, there are plenty of unbelievable orders out there, including some I know who have had their NEW spouse/partner “ordered” to provide health care coverage for the targeted parent’s biological children.  So, as with any judge… anything is quite clearly possible.  So, let us know what your specific circumstances are and see how to close the loopholes and clear up any ambiguity before you get trapped into a bad order.

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