The divorce process resolves, at least temporarily, disputes between divorcing spouses regarding marital property and assets, spousal support, child custody, and child support. If you are divorcing in the metro Detroit area, you must be represented by the right Michigan divorce attorney.
Both during and after a divorce, disputes can be costly. Wherever you can make a compromise with your ex-spouse or reach a mutual agreement, do it. One expense that often creates disputes between divorcing spouses and ex-spouses is healthcare.
After a divorce, one ex-spouse usually is not required to pay the other’s medical expenses, but there are some important exceptions that divorcing marriage partners may need to consider. The responsibility for a child’s medical expenses after a divorce depends on a number of factors.
Keep reading, and you’ll learn how medical costs are handled in the most common post-divorce situations. You will also learn how to ensure that your divorce settlement is fair and that you are not being exploited for medical bills that are not your obligation.
What Medical Debts Are Marital Debts?
Although you may not be required to pay your ex-spouse’s medical bills after you are divorced, medical debts that are incurred in the course of a marriage are considered marital debts, even if only one spouse receives the medical product or service.
However, if you sign or co-sign any document stating that you will pay for a medical bill before, during, or after a marriage, you’re liable for the costs if your spouse does not pay. A divorce decree may assign debt to only one spouse, but that decree may not apply to your creditors.
In some states – but not Michigan – ex-spouses can have liability for the other ex-partner’s medical bills even without signing anything under a legal concept called the “doctrine of necessities.” Michigan courts have held that the doctrine of necessities is unconstitutional.
In Michigan, a debt incurred during a marriage is a marital debt, even if you are separated and did not know about the debt until after it was incurred. However, in most cases, medical debts incurred by an ex-spouse prior to or after the marriage are individual rather than marital debts.
Who Pays a Child’s Medical Costs After a Divorce?
After a divorce, who pays a child’s medical expenses? While you may not be responsible for an ex-spouse’s individual medical debts, if you’re a parent, you will have at least some of the responsibility for your children’s medical expenses until they become adults.
How do parents share or divide that responsibility? If one parent pays a child’s health insurance, that expense is factored into the child support calculation.
How Are a Child’s Uninsured Medical Costs Calculated?
Of course, health insurance doesn’t cover all of a child’s medical expenses, which may also include prescriptions, co-pays, glasses or contact lenses, braces, and visits to certain specialists. Michigan courts consider these “ordinary” uninsured healthcare expenses.
The child support “formula” used by Michigan courts presumes that a child will incur ordinary uninsured healthcare costs in a particular amount each year. That figure is currently $403 a year. If you pay child support, part of what you pay is assumed to go toward these uninsured expenses.
What If the Other Parent Fails to Pay Child Support?
If your child’s other parent is failing to pay court-ordered child support, the court can impose enforcement measures, but you’ll need to have a metro Detroit family law attorney petition the court on your behalf.
Enforcement measures may include garnishing that parent’s wages or tax refunds, placing a lien on the parent’s real or personal property, suspending his or her driver’s license, or charging the parent with contempt of court.
How Are a Child’s “Extraordinary” Medical Costs Handled?
But even when court-ordered child support is paid, a dispute may arise when a child incurs medical costs beyond what is considered “ordinary.” A court may increase the standard amount for uninsured healthcare costs when the court is aware that a child will incur higher expenses.
When a child’s uninsured healthcare expenses surpass the annual “ordinary” figure, parents share the cost of those expenses based on each parent’s percentage of their joint total income.
Each parent is responsible for that percentage when extraordinary medical expenses are incurred – unless they mutually agree to another arrangement.
Compelling the Other Parent to Pay a Fair Share
So what happens if one parent declines to pay his or her share of a child’s extraordinary medical costs? Michigan law regarding a parent’s refusal to pay a child’s extraordinary medical expenses is exceedingly complicated, but this is what is required:
1. The parent seeking reimbursement must send a reimbursement request to the other parent within four weeks of the date that the insurance company has paid on the cost or denied payment. Put the request in writing and keep a copy for yourself.
2. This means one parent must pay the full amount and then seek reimbursement from the other. If the other fails to pay, the paying parent must submit the bill to Michigan’s Friend of the Court agency within six months for that agency to enforce payment.
3. If your spouse refuses to pay his or her share of your child’s extraordinary medical costs, seek the advice and guidance of a metro Detroit family lawyer who can make sure that you meet the deadlines and requirements – and that the court acts on your behalf.
Divorced parents need to keep records of their children’s healthcare expenses. Make and store securely copies of all medical bills, receipts, and related documents. If the other parent owes you, keep track of exactly what is owed and be able to produce the documents to prove it.
How Will a Family Law Attorney Help You?
To ensure that you are treated fairly both during and after a Michigan divorce, the right lawyer’s help is essential. Even if you are only considering divorce, or if you anticipate that your spouse is about to file for divorce, speak as early as possible to a Michigan divorce attorney.
The right divorce attorney can answer your legal questions, address your concerns, and provide you with sound legal advice and guidance regarding matters that include the division of marital property and assets, spousal support, child custody, and child support.
If you are divorcing – or disputing with your ex-partner over healthcare costs after a divorce – a good attorney’s help is your right. If you are seeking reimbursement from your child’s other parent for healthcare expenses, the law in Michigan is on your side.