Steven Fernandez |

Child Support

When parents get divorced in California, it is often the children who suffer the consequences. In order to make the transition into their new life easier, California courts will refuse to sign off on a divorce until certain matters are taken care of. Child custody and child support are two of the most important issues in a divorce. Custody refers to where children spend their time. Support, on the other hand, refers to money that a parent is obligated to pay to ensure their children are taken care of, financially.

Custody and Support

While custody and support operate independently of one another, they are often very intertwined. For example, the non-custodial parent (the parent who spends the least amount of time with the child) is often obligated to pay child support. The less time a parent spends with a child, the more they’ll likely be obligated to pay in support.

Timeshare custody is not the only factor that impacts child support obligations. Child support is calculated using a complex formula that takes nearly every aspect of a child’s life into consideration. One of the most important factors that’s calculated is the cost of healthcare. Children in California are required to be covered by healthcare, and parents are obligated to do everything they can to make sure their children are adequately covered.

When Do Children Have to Be Covered By Insurance?

Parents Covered by Health Insurance

Parents who are covered by health insurance, whether government-sponsored or employer-based, are legally required to make sure that their kids are also covered by that plan. Coverage must last until the children are no longer eligible for insurance protection. When parents are married this is fairly simple to guarantee. When parents get divorced, things can become more complicated.

After a divorce, parents are required to keep their kids on their healthcare plan. Parents may only stop coverage if the premiums and plan become cost prohibitive. California law explains that a plan will be considered “cost-prohibitive” if it exceeds 5 percent of a parent’s gross income.

If parents fail to keep their children covered by health insurance they can face some serious legal consequences. Since health insurance is required by law, shirking this responsibility will be considered a breach of child support obligations. This can result in criminal consequences, civil penalties,  and well as have a negative impact on custodial rights.

Parents Not Covered by Health Insurance

A growing number of people are not covered by health insurance. Sometimes this is a personal choice, and sometimes it is the result of an unfortunate turn of events. When you get divorced, the court handling your dispute will review your financial situation and determine whether you can afford to purchase health insurance for your children. If it is not cost-prohibitive, you can be ordered to enroll your child in a health care program. In California, courts may also direct parents to certain government-sponsored health care programs that can be useful in offsetting (or eliminating) the burdensome costs of insurance.

Offsetting Healthcare Costs

Healthcare in America can be expensive. As a result, health care costs can be factored into child custody obligations. Support is paid to ensure that children are cared for. If a parent pays a child’s healthcare premiums or costs out of his or her own pocket, those expenses can be used to offset child support obligations. Parents, of course, will have to provide clear documentation about the precise amounts they expend on healthcare costs for their children. Courts calculating support requirements will take these costs into account.

What About Other Healthcare Expenses?

Health insurance will not cover all medical treatment and care a child may require. Parents can be obligated to pay certain costs and expenses out of their own pocket. If this happens, the parent who pays these costs can seek to have some of those expenses reimbursed from the other parent.

Here’s an example.

Joe and Sue, parents of Sam, recently got divorced. Sam is covered by Joe’s insurance, which he has through his employer. Sam gets sick while staying with Joe one night and ends up in the Emergency Room. Joe’s insurance carrier requires that he pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. Joe ends up spending $1,000 out of pocket to secure medical care for his daughter.

This $1,000 is in addition to child support and health care costs that Joe already pays. Joe can submit an itemized bill to the court and ask to be reimbursed for 50 percent of his out-of-pocket costs. If Sue does not contest the validity of the expense, she’ll be required to write Joe a check for $500.

In other words, parents share the responsibility for taking care of their children, regardless of whether or not they are married. Just because one parent shoulders child support obligations and/or covers the cost of health insurance does not mean that they will be solely responsible for all of the child’s costs. Courts will help to ensure that obligations are spread out equitably between the two parents.

Los Angeles Family Law Attorneys

Calculating child support can be tricky. Things can become more complicated when health care issues are brought into the equation. If you’re having trouble with health care and child support calculations, contact the Los Angeles family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney for help. We can help you navigate this difficult issue and ensure that your family is properly cared for. Call today to learn more.