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Which parent is responsible for paying a minor child’s medical expenses?

Child support may seem pretty straight forward at first glance. The Court orders you to pay child support. You then pay the ordered amount to the other parent. You then believe the child support obligation for the month is over. However, child support is not exactly that simple.

A frequent misconception that I see people have when it comes to child support is that your monthly child support payment covers all of the minor child’s financial needs. People are surprised, both payors and payees, when I tell them that in addition to a monthly child support payment, California law also requires parents to share other expenses, such as medical expenses not covered by insurance.

As an example, if a parent is ordered to pay $500 in child support per month, they would also typically be obligated to pay half of any medical expense their child’s medical insurance does not cover. This may include co-pays paid so the child can visit a doctor, medication expenses paid out of pockets, and any other expenses that for one reason or another, were not covered by the medical insurance. This additional child support is known as “mandatory add on” in the State of California.

There is a very specific way that California Law requires medical expenses to be reimbursed by the other parent. I will break down this process into two steps:

  • If you have incurred the medical expense, you have to provide the other parent with an itemized statement of what was incurred that was not covered by insurance. This puts the other parent on notice of what their obligation will be. This notice has to be given to the other parent as soon as possible, no later than 30 days after the costs were incurred. It is important to note that the law allows one parent to pay the entire amount of the medical expenses incurred and then have the other parent reimburse them later or have the parents each pay half of what was incurred directly to the health care provider.

 

  • Once the other parent receives notice of medical expenses not covered by the minor child’s insurance, they will have to reimburse the other parent for their share of the medical expenses, either within 30 days of receiving the notice, according to the payment schedule set by the health care provider, or according to the schedule adopted by the Court. The time for payment will essentially depend on the specific orders in your case.

 

What most parents do not know is that division of medical expenses does not always have to be 50/50. Outside of the Court, parents can agree to split medical expenses not covered by insurance any way they want. The parents can agree that one parent will pay all medical expenses not covered by insurance or can agree that one parent will take on more than half of the expenses not covered by medical insurance. This is the beauty of negotiating outside of Court. You can essentially agree to any division you see fit or that you feel is best for your child.

If you are a parent who wishes to dispute a medical expense, the law allows you to file a motion to have the Court review the expense and to make alternative orders if necessary.  If you are the parent who has incurred the medical expenses and the other parent is refusing to pay their half, you also have a right to file a motion to request for the Court to order them to pay. Or if you wish to have an agreement drafted on how the medical expenses are to be paid, who they are going to be paid to, and what percentage of the expenses each parent will pay, our office can assist you in having an agreement drafted and filed with the Court.

By Gisela Acevedo, Esq. Attorney at Contreras Law Firm

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