When you and your spouse got divorced you likely set forth in your final decree of divorce the requirement that you and he split 50/50 any uninsured costs related to medical expenses. That sounds all good and well in theory, but in practice it can be extremely difficult to manage when your ex-spouse refuses to pay these sums.
An enforcement lawsuit is the typical response to a situation like this. Essentially you would hire an attorney to file a lawsuit that cites the specific section of your divorce decree where your ex-spouse is obligated to pay their share of these uninsured costs. You would then seek some sort of penalty for their failing to do so- usually money judgments that can total up to $500 per violation, in addition to actually paying back the amount that is owed.
Child Support Orders cover medical expenses as well
To be sure what your Final Decree of Divorce states on this subject you should take out your copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and flip to the section that deals with Child Support. In addition to child support, provisions regarding health insurance are included. Most divorce decrees mandate that parties split uninsured medical expenses 50/50. The party who pays the costs up front would be reimbursed by the other parent.
As a side note, I am sometimes asked by parents how they can better remember to both request and pay for these sort of costs. It is easy to either forget to tell your spouse about them or to forget to pay them after having the money requested. So what I will tell clients to do is to put a reminder into their cell phone that tells them to either submit unpaid bills to their ex-spouse at the end of each month or to make payments for those unpaid bills before the end of the month.
The Office of the Attorney General collects payments for child support in Texas
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is the state agency that facilitates the payment of child support in Texas from the payor ex-spouse to the payee ex-spouse. It is probable that if your ex-spouse is current on their child support that they would not offer you any assistance in trying to win back money from medical bills that have not been paid.
Getting a court order enforced in Texas
Unfortunately the option that you need to pursue should your ex-spouse not pay child support on time and in the full amount ordered is to file an enforcement lawsuit. You can attempt to recover money owed to you in either medical support or child support and collect fines of up to $500 per violation of the court order. Enforcement cases are also partial criminal cases which means that your ex-spouse runs the risk of serving time in jail for not paying child support.
The process for beginning an enforcement case is similar to that of starting a divorce. You would file your enforcement lawsuit and have it served upon your ex-spouse. He or she would respond to the lawsuit with an Answer. Most enforcement cases are heard before judges where you both will be able to submit evidence to allow a judge to make a decision on how to rule.
How rights and duties are divided up in a Texas divorce
When we consider the division of rights and duties between you and your child’s other parent it should come as no surprise that these are the issues that are among the most contested in any divorce. Basically, all rights as to a child in a Texas family law case are divided up as such:
-exclusively the right of one parent or the other
-the right of both you and your ex-spouse; subject to the agreement of the other
-a right that you and your ex-spouse hold independently of each other
Many rights are shared with your ex-spouse where neither of you can make a decision without the agreement of the other. This can prove to be a difficult part to manage because essentially you and your ex-spouse may be in a position where you are unable to move forward with a decision because your ex-spouse does not agree with you. Issues relating to school and medical care come to mind as especially frustrating in this regard.
If you and your ex-spouse are not able to agree on how to handle a particular issue related to your child there are two outlets for most divorced parents. The first is that in some Final Decrees of Divorce there is a neutral, third party appointed as a tie-breaker who can make the final call on a decision that has stymied you and your ex-spouse. The other option is the far less desirable one- go to court for the judge to play tie breaker.
Independent rights held by you and your ex-spouse
Usually you cannot just make a decision for your child even if your Final Decree of Divorce says that you can. In actuality you will likely need to provide some notice to your ex-spouse of an issue and your intention to make a decision regarding it. This allows your ex-spouse to at least have some say in the matter and to allow you both an opportunity to talk through decisions that each of you are lawfully able to make on your own.
Consider, the example of being able to consent to surgery for your child that involves an invasive procedure. In most final orders a requirement will follow that you need to provide written notice of the procedure to your ex-spouse at least 14 days in advance of having the procedure done. Specifics like the information for the doctor and location of the surgery along with contact information are often included as well. Unfortunately it is not always the case that your ex-spouse will consult with you before making a decision of this sort.
Having the right to designate the primary residence of your child
The right that is the most fought over in a divorce is without a doubt the right to make the decision as to where the primary residence of your child should be. There are two ways that this is typically done in a Texas divorce. The first is that either you or your child’s other parent would be named as the parent with this right. The other parent would be given visitation rights under the order. Most divorcing parents settle this issue on their own without going to trial, although in some cases parties will have this issue decided by a judge.
The other way that this issue can be settled is by parents agreeing with one another that neither will be declared as the parent with the ability to determine the primary residence of your child. Instead of a formal designation such as this there will be inserted a geographically restricted area in which your child is able to reside. It may be within a certain school district or another area that you and your ex-spouse can agree upon. I have had clients who, along with their spouse, agree that a certain school district is preferable to any other in their area and will agree to have a geographic restriction inserted that unless and until additional modifications the parties shall not reside outside of that school district.
Questions on rights and duties for your child after a divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions after hearing read today’s blog post or are seeking clarification on anything that you’ve read please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We work alongside folks just like you in our community and take a great deal of pride in being able to help them.
Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where your questions can be answered and your problems can be addressed by a practicing family law attorney. We thank you for your time and interest in reading today’s blog post and we hope to have you back tomorrow as we continue to discuss relevant family law issues in Texas.