Medical Support is Extra
The Family Code requires the non-custodial parent (NCP) to provide or pay for the “reasonable cost” of medical support for children of the marriage. “Medical support” generally means “health insurance.” This next point is important to grasp—the cost of medical support is in addition to child support.
Hierarchy of Preference
The Family Code lists preferences for how the support obligation should be structured. The preferences work like this:
- First, health insurance through an employer or union (i.e. either the NCP provides it or pays the custodial parent, or CP, for the cost of obtaining it).
- Second, health insurance through a commercial policy (i.e. either the NCP provides it or pays the CP for the cost of obtaining it).
- Third, health insurance through a government assistance program (i.e. the NCP will reimburse the government partially or wholly for program costs).
- Last, cash medical support (the NCP will pay the CP a set amount to help defray out-of-pocket costs)
Two Other Important Things to Know About Child Medical Support
First, courts generally order that any medical bills not covered by insurance get split by the parents. Life teaches us that the parent taking a child to the doctor typically has to pay any co-pay on the spot. This parent should keep good records of these out-of-pocket costs and periodically seek one-half contribution from the other parent (e.g. monthly or quarterly). The courts can help if the other parent refuses to cooperate.
Second, a parent who is ordered to provide health insurance or pay cash to the other parent—yet fails to do so—becomes liable for all necessary medical expenses whether or not insurance would have covered the expenses. Courts don’t look favorably on parents who thumb their noses at court-ordered responsibilities toward their children.
Reasonable Cost is defined in the Family Code. It is the cost of health insurance or cash medical support not to exceed 9% of the NCP’s annual resources.” So, someone making $50,000 per year can be ordered to pay up to $4,500 per year for health insurance or cash medical support.
Cash Medical Support is a fixed monthly amount that the NCP pays to the CP to defray out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses when no health insurance exists. The law does not require a paid receipt to be produced first. The monthly amount is paid to the CP whether or not any expenses were incurred in a particular month.