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My Child Needs Surgery—Who Pays the Uninsured Medical Expenses?

Any medical crisis involving your children is stressful. As parents, the last thing you want to think about is money, but it’s unavoidable: someone must pay for medical care.

As part of your divorce, the judge probably assigned to one parent the responsibility to buy medical and dental insurance. But even the most generous insurance policy won’t cover everything. After a big medical expense, like surgery, you will probably have bills left to be paid. The same is true for even routine doctor visits, which might require a copay. Most insurance also requires a deductible before coinsurance kicks in, a few thousand or more. Who pays these expenses?

Read Your Divorce Decree

The issue of uninsured medical expenses comes up so regularly that divorce courts include them in medical support orders. This order should state how parents are to divide uninsured medical expenses incurred to treat their children.

In some cases, expenses are split 50/50 between the two parents. However, that’s not required under Texas law. Indeed, we’ve seen many different percentages. Sometimes even one parent is given sole responsibility for paying these bills.

Making Payment

Medical providers don’t like to wait around for parents to resolve any disagreement about how to split expenses. Fortunately, the medical support order should lay out the process for paying the provider and reimbursing the parent who pays.

For example, the parent who has possession of the child when he or she needs medical care might pay all uninsured medical expenses. They have a certain amount of time—10 days, 20 days, etc.—to provide proof of medical bills to the other parent. The other parent then makes a contribution based on the agreement within a certain amount of time (such as 10 days).

Agreements which are this detailed are helpful. They tell each parent what they need to do and provides deadlines for meeting their obligations.

Disputes Over Medical Expenses

Sometimes a dispute arises over paying these expenses. Some of the more common disputes include:

  • The medical procedure wasn’t covered by the medical support order. For example, plastic surgery (like a nose job) probably isn’t covered, so the other parent isn’t obligated to pay. Parents might disagree if a certain procedure falls under the order.
  • The paying parent doesn’t submit bills in a timely manner. Some parents might hang onto bills for years and then spring them on the other parent, demanding immediate payment.
  • The other parent doesn’t want to contribute according to the court order. Maybe this parent has encountered financial difficulties, or they simply don’t want to pay.

Resolving these disputes might require the help of the court or possibly mediation. Your Galveston child support lawyer can help analyze your options and will advocate on your behalf.

Not Yet Divorced?

If you haven’t finalized a divorce, then this is a great time to look closer at how you will allocate medical expenses. Buying insurance is only the first step. Most families incur additional bills, and you should consider the best way to divide them.

Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today to discuss your options. Our Galveston family law attorneys can discuss how to fairly divide these expenses.