The Shoebox And Other Mysteries Of Medical Support For Kids
So, you think you know a little about Texas child support laws, right? You’ve heard about the Texas child support guidelines, wage withholding orders, and even the dreaded contempt of court for those who don’t pay. These are all good things to know given that child support is a necessary consideration in every divorce and child custody suit.
But, there’s something else you should consider when crunching those child support numbers: medical support. If you’re in a Texas divorce or child custody case, your mandate is already here. The Texas Family Code plainly states, “The court shall order medical support for the child.” Further, the Code states, “The guidelines for support of a child are based on the assumption that the court will order the obligor to provide medical support for the child in addition to the amount of child support calculated.”
Stated differently, if you are paying child support, it is assumed that, in addition to your support obligation, you will be paying additional money to maintain health insurance for your child. In today’s volatile health insurance market, such a requirement is a financial wild card for parents who are ordered to pay.
The Family Code instructs that, if there is group health insurance available to either parent, the child should be covered under the plan. If there is no such plan, or if the cost of providing dependent coverage exceeds 9% of your annual resources, you may be ordered to enroll your child in the state run healthcare plan, or even pay your former spouse cash medical support payments. True to form, there are no easy answers for many of us when it comes to providing health insurance coverage for our children.
What I hope you’ll take away from this discussion is that every child custody or divorce case in Texas has a significant financial component and an erroneous ruling by a family court judge can cost you thousands of dollars over the many years you will be subject to a child support order. Invest in a knowledgeable divorce lawyer or child custody attorney who can analyze your situation and then effectively present your case in court. In Dallas and Fort Worth, Schreier & Housewirth Family Law helps you crunch the child support and medical support numbers so you pay what you should.
Now, what about that shoebox?
The shoebox is where we keep all those pesky co-pay receipts and explanation of benefits forms we accumulate as we take our kids to the doctor, the ER, or the orthodontist. Most divorce and custody orders specify that these expenses, not covered by insurance, are to be paid 50-50 by each parent. It should be simple enough, and when your work well with the other parent, it is. As you incur and uninsured medical expense, you copy the receipt, showing how much you paid, and attach it to an explanatory letter showing the expense and requesting payment of 50%.
What if you don’t like your child’s other parent and wish to punish him or her in a passive-aggressive sort of way? If you are incurring the uninsured medical expenses, you hold on to them for months until the amount due from the other parent totals several thousand dollars, then you demand immediate payment. Ouch! On the other side of the equation, if you are on the receiving end of these requests for payment, you do nothing, knowing your ex will have to go to the time, expense, and uncertainty of trying to get a court order to compel you to pay your fair share. Nice!
The point here is that our system for payment and collection of these uninsured medical expenses is largely inadequate and often exploited by hostile parents. We suggest you try to set the ground rules with the other parent from the beginning and make a habit of requesting and paying as each bill is received.
…And lose the shoebox! Your chances of being reimbursed for what you have paid increase dramatically when you keep neat and accurate records.