If you are a parent in Florida, you have a legal duty to support your child. Most parents do this without even thinking about it. You purchase or rent a home with space for your child to live. You buy food for your child to eat and clothes for them to wear. If they need to go to the doctor, you take them and pay their medical bills. When you get divorced or separate from your child’s other parent, you may need to think about child support even more. Where previously, you and the other parent were supporting your child as a unit, now you are living separately. Who pays for what? If you are ordered to pay child support, is that the end of your financial obligations? Here’s what you need to know about Florida child support and your child’s medical expenses.
FLORIDA CHILD SUPPORT AND HEALTH INSURANCE
In Florida, an order for child support must include a provision for “health insurance for the minor child when health insurance is reasonable in cost and accessible to the child.” What exactly does that mean, especially in light of the fact that health insurance feels unreasonable in cost to most people? The Florida legislature clarifies that health insurance is presumed to be “reasonable in cost” if the incremental cost of adding a child to the health insurance policy is less than 5% of the gross income of the parent ordered to provide it.
Let’s say that Jim is ordered to pay child support and to provide health insurance for his daughter, Ana. The annual cost of adding Ana to his employer-provided health insurance plan is $3,000. Jim has gross income of $80,000 per year. Five percent of $80,000 is $4,000. The cost of Ana’s insurance is less than 5% of Jim’s gross income, so a court would presume that is a reasonable amount to pay. A court may also deviate from the 5% rule if adhering to it would be unjust, but the court must provide a written explanation of any decision to deviate.
Then there is that word “accessible.” What makes health insurance “accessible” to a child? If it is available to be used in the county where the child resides, or another county if both parents agree.
Of course, as we all know, paying for health insurance isn’t the end of medical expenses; there are often medical expenses that are not covered by insurance, either because a deductible has not been met, the services were “out of network,” or the insurer covered only a certain amount of the cost of a procedure. When a child has uninsured medical expenses, who is responsible for them?
UNINSURED MEDICAL EXPENSES AND FLORIDA CHILD SUPPORT
If there are medical, dental, or prescription medication expenses that are not covered by health insurance, the court will allocate the costs of those non-covered expenses between the parents. Florida courts may also order the payer of child support to pay his or her share of the costs of medical care that is not covered by health insurance directly to the parent receiving child support. The parent receiving support should request payment for medical expenses in writing as soon as possible, providing details such as the name of the child for whom services were provided, the date the services were provided, the cost of the services and the share of the other parent, the name of the doctor and facility, and the date by which payment is requested.
If a parent files a case only for medical support, each parent’s share of payments will be equal to their percentage share of both parents’ combined net income. Using the example above, if Ana’s mother, Beth, files a case for medical support against Jim, and Beth’s share of their combined net income is one third, Jim may be ordered to pay two-thirds of non-covered medical expenses.
Of course, it is essential that your child receives medical care both to keep him or her in good health and to prevent any problems from becoming more serious. If you are a custodial parent, it is important to keep good records of the care your child, and its cost, receives so that you can provide the other parent with documentation when you request payment. If you are a parent who pays child support, you have the right to ask for this documentation before you make a payment.
If you have more questions about Florida child support and your child’s medical expenses, please contact Antonio Jimenez to schedule a consultation.
You may also be interested in: