Ensuring that your child has their basic needs met is one of the fundamental concerns that most parents have during a Texas divorce or child custody case. Keep in mind That a divorce or child custody case touches on a range of issues related to your children, your finances, your home, in a range of other subjects depending on the type of case you are involved in. As such, it is pretty easy to have an issue get lost in the shuffle and lose focus on what is most important to you. I typically advise parents to do their best to keep an eye on each subject in their case and place special attention on each parent's rights, duties, and ability to care for their children after the divorce or child custody case has ended.
When it comes to ensuring that the necessities of life are taken care of for your children, most people consider that child support covers these expenses and therefore is a major focus of a divorce or child custody case. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may ultimately follow the guidelines as laid forth in the Texas family code for child support. Depending on the number of children you have before the court and the paying parents' net monthly income, it is not difficult to determine a basic level of child support based on a percentage of this monthly income.
By the same token, your circumstances may require either additional or lesser amounts of child support. For instance, if you end up being the parent responsible for paying child support and your ex-spouse earns significantly more money than you do, then your obligation to pay child support may be minimal. By the same token, if your child has a special need or if your income is significantly higher than your ex-spouses, then your obligation to pay child support may be increased and above the guidelines outlined in the Texas family code.
No matter what circumstances you and your family find yourselves in, it is important for you to keep in mind that there is a range of possibilities for you to experience in a divorce or child custody case. One of the major concerns that many parents have about child support is whether child support will help cover extra costs at random intervals during the year. As we are heading into a full year of this pandemic, one of those concerns may relate to medical bills that need to be paid periodically.
A straightforward and reasonable question for you to ask would be whether or not these medical bills will be covered by child support or if an additional provision in your family court orders would cover this topic instead. In today's blog post, I would like to discuss how medical bills are included in a family court order and what you need to be aware of as far as outcomes related to child support, medical bills, and health insurance for your children after your case has come to a close.
Medical support for Texas families
in addition to child support, medical support is another form of financial aid that your Co-parent may be ordered to pay to you to cover the costs of health insurance and other costs that are not covered by health insurance for your child. If your Co-parent is the parent who is ordered to pay medical support, they may be required to provide medical support by traditional health insurance coverage for your child, paying cash medical support if your child receives Medicaid through the state, or paying you for the cost of your health insurance coverage that may be provided through your employer.
Your Co-parent would be ordered to pay child support in addition to the medical support of one of the previous types that I have gone over with you. Texas requires your Co-parent to only pay medical support based on reasonable insurance coverage costs for your child. In most cases, reasonable cost means the cost of health insurance that does not go over 9% of their annual resources. Keep in mind that your child's needs may exceed this number, which requires additional negotiation during mediation of your child custody or divorce case.
When it comes to uninsured portions of medical bills, it is typical for you and your Co-parent to split these costs evenly. If one of you earns significantly more money than the other or is in a better position to pay a larger portion of these uninsured bills, then that should also become a part of your negotiation or trial strategy. The 50% figure that I just presented to you is only a typical amount parents agreed to in a fairly standard divorce or child custody case.
Dental support for Texas families
Like medical support, dental support is intended to help bridge the gap between expenses related to medical/dental concerns and a primary conservator's income limitations. In recent years, courts in Texas have been required To include a mandate that one parent provide dental support in any court order. Just as we saw previously, with medical support, reasonable dental insurance costs are considered in this regard. If your child is on Medicaid, then you're Co-parent will be required to pay cash medical support for the costs of gentle support.
When it comes to dental support, then only 1.5% of your Co-parent's annual resources can go towards dental coverage. These amounts are in addition to any child support that your Co-parent must pay, and you should ensure to the best of your ability that you understand how these concepts work before the end of your divorce. Health insurance and dental coverage through Medicaid or Children's Health insurance program are available if you qualify on a needs basis.
What if your Co-parent cannot get health insurance through their employer?
In an age where many people are working on a contract or temporary basis for multiple employers, your Co-parent may find him or herself in a situation where they cannot obtain health insurance through their employer. This can present some difficulties due to the costs associated with purchasing health insurance on the open market. In this case, if your Co-parent cannot provide health insurance through their employer, then you, as the parent who is receiving child support, would then be obligated to provide health insurance through your workplace.
Your Co-parent would then pay you a reimbursement for the costs associated with paying for health insurance. If neither you nor your Co-parent has employer-provided health insurance, then the judge in your case could order that your Co-parent pay a certain sum of money each month to you to cover your child's medical care. It is also possible that you and your Co-parent would agree regarding which one of you will cover your child on health insurance. The above information that I have shared regarding how health insurance could be obtained or cost could be split would only occur if you and your Co-parent could not agree in mediation or settlement negotiations.
More on how uninsured medical expenses are treated in a Texas family law case
As we have already discussed, your family court judge will also order a specific division of how uncovered medical expenses will be taken into consideration for your family. Included in these uncovered expenses are medical payments that are needed to reach your annual deductible or Co-pays as provided for in your insurance plan. This is important because you will need to think about the amount of money that will need to be paid before your Co-parent meets their deductible. These are all considered uninsured medical expenses for our discussion today. This could be a fairly substantial number depending on your Co-parent's specific health insurance plan for your child.
But the judge in your case will review the financial circumstances for both you and your Co-parent. Once the judge has looked at the circumstances with a great deal of attention, they will decide how both you and your Co-parent will be able to pay when deciding upon a proper division of responsibility for these uninsured costs. If you earn substantially more money than your Co-parent, then it is likely that you will shoulder more of the burden of these uninsured or uncovered costs for medical care of your child.
Just as we mentioned in the section previous to this one, you and your Co-parent are fully able to agree on how to divide up these uninsured costs between yourselves. It is typical to see the parents in a situation like yours decide to split the costs evenly. Still, as always, your specific circumstances may require a change or alteration of this typical agreement. It would help to consider how your income and your Co-parent would play into this discussion during your case.
How long will your medical support order persist?
Just like we have seen with child support, a medical support order does not last forever. Your Co-parent will only have an obligation under the law to pay medical support until your child graduates from high school or turns 18 years old, whichever occurs later. Furthermore, if your child were to get married before they turn 18 or if they were to pass away, then either of these circumstances would lead to a stopping of the obligation for your Co-parent to pay medical support or dental support.
As special circumstances may arise where you and your Co-parent have a child together who suffers from a disability of some sort. If it is determined that this disability will remain in your child's life for an extended period, then the judge can order your Co-parent to pay child support and medical support for a longer period beyond high school age. Again, you should be prepared to discuss with your attorney and negotiate with your Co-parent on an appropriate length for child support to last if you find yourself in a situation where your child has a disability.
I have seen firsthand how disagreements regarding extensions of child support for a disabled child can make a family law case much more difficult. Think about whether or not you and your child's other parents have agreed or disagreed over the years regarding issues relevant to their health. If you and your Co-parent disagree on how long the disability for your child is likely to persist, then I would come to mediation ready to present information showing that the disability is likely longer than your Co-parent may think. If your case were to go all the way to a trial, then you may need to consider having your child's doctor or another witness who is competent testify about the likely length of the disabling condition for your child.
Considering how expensive medical or childcare costs can be, an extension of child support must be discussed with the full array of facts at hand. Do not come into a trial or mediation setting unprepared if you and your Co-parent are at odds regarding an extension of child support beyond 18 years of age. If you think that a longer child support award is necessary, then remember that the burden would be on you to show why this is the case. Therefore, speak with your attorney before any of these important events so that all of you can have a plan in place to argue why an extension of a child in medical support is necessary.
What can you do to prepare for negotiations regarding medical support and dental support in a Texas family law case?
The first thing that you need to do is get a firm idea about what sort of obligations will be necessary for the future regarding your child's health. If your child goes for a yearly checkup to the doctor and a twice-yearly visit to the dentist, then it is unlikely that there will be many concrete costs to bear in mind during settlement negotiations or a trial. In a circumstance like this, basic health insurance for your child will be necessary for there likely would not be many uninsured costs throughout the year typically.
However, if your child suffers from some physical impairment that requires more frequent visits to the doctor or emergency care, then the subject of medical and dental support is a much more important one for you and your family. It would help if you began to inquire about the possibilities of either having insurance come from your employer or that of your Co-parent. Even if you are not currently paying health insurance for your child, it may be worthwhile to find out from your employer when you can add your child to a plan through work and the likely expenses. From there, you can begin to shop around and see if alternative plans are available for you and your family if you become responsible for providing health insurance.
Another consideration that you need to make is how you and your Co-parent will communicate in the future regarding medical bills and uninsured costs. For instance, if your child were to need an MRI or CT scan for a broken bone or other condition, then those costs may not be fully covered by insurance. How would you go about communicating updates on bills and things of that nature to your Co-parent? If I were in your position, I would make it clear how each parent communicates bills to the other as day in your court orders.
For instance, you could include in your court orders a provision that each parent must submit a copy of the bill to the Co-parent within a certain number of days by email or other means. From there, The receiving Co-parent would have to reimburse the paying Co-parent any money as outlined in their final decree of divorce well orders or their child custody case. Being organized on the front end can pay dividends a great deal on the back end and avoid one parent frequently paying costs for medical issues that are not reimbursed for weeks or even months.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff.