Dividing up your assets and debt during a divorce can be incredibly complicated, especially if you have a child to take care of as well. While you both have a legal responsibility to look after your child, it is not always clear who covers certain expenses. This is especially true if your child has a medical condition that requires consistent care and treatment, as well as reliable health insurance. What often confuses parents in a divorce is which one of them has to pay for health insurance and how medical bills should be divided.
Legal Requirements for Health Insurance
Parents are legally required to provide for their children, which includes ensuring they have access to medical care through an insurance plan. Typically, most parents receive coverage through their employers, and they are legally allowed to add their children to an employee policy until they are 25-years-old. These policies are often bundled into family rates, meaning the employer may subsidize the cost of the child’s health care. After a divorce, a parent may be required to keep their child on a policy to ensure that the child is well taken care of. If a parent drops a child from the policy without consulting the court or in violation of a court order, then they can face severe repercussions from the court.
But does that mean both parents have to keep the child on the policy? Not necessarily. During your divorce, the courts may determine that one parent is responsible for providing health insurance coverage. Oftentimes, this is the parent who will receive child support, as child support payments can include money for health insurance premiums. But this is not always the case, and the courts may make the decision based on who has a stronger policy.
Alternatively, you and your ex-spouse can make an agreement about how health insurance coverage and medical costs are divided. You may choose to keep both your policies to ensure there are no issues when you have to take your child to the doctor, which could be beneficial if you have joint custody. Or you could assign one policy as the primary and the other as the secondary, meaning one parent’s policy will typically provide coverage except in emergencies.
Who Is Responsible for Medical Bills?
Like health insurance, you and your ex-spouse can divide up how you want to handle each expense. For example, you could choose to divide it based on each of your incomes and expenses. If one parent has to pay for the majority of the child’s living expenses, an agreement may be made where the other parent covers the majority of the costs of any medical bills. Ultimately, you will want to ensure that you come to a fair agreement and that your child is fully covered if they need medical treatment.
However, there is another matter around medical bills that you must consider: how they impact your divorce. Medical bills are a form of community debt and it can be divided equally in a divorce because of California’s equitable divorce laws. Even if one parent primarily paid for a child’s medical bills with their income, both parents are responsible for the bills. However, this only applies to medical debt accrued during the marriage. After your divorce, these bills are not considered community debt and you should not be expected to pay additional costs on them unless it is required in your custody agreement.
If you are facing challenges determining parental responsibilities in a California custody plan, contact a San Diego child custody attorney at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. immediately. We can review your custody plan and legal requirements under California law to determine who is responsible for medical bills, insurance, and debt. We offer every potential client a free initial consultation, so there is no cost to scheduling an appointment with us at (858) 458-9500.