Unreimbursed Medical Expenses and Child Support in North Carolina
After filing for a divorce, parents want peace of mind knowing that their ex will pull their weight in helping take care of the children they share. Determining the financial responsibilities of the two parties involved can be the most complex part of divorce proceedings, especially when a family has incurred significant out-of-pocket medical expenses for their child’s medical care. You can avoid the heated debate and protect your child from the crossfire just by knowing the amount of uninsured medical expenses you are required by the state to pay and by knowing when to use a child support lawyer.
Are Unreimbursed Medical Expenses Part of Child Support?
Unreimbursed medical expenses include any medical care deductibles, copays, prescription medications, elective surgeries, and any other related expenses that aren’t covered by your insurance. These uninsured costs can sometimes cost more than basic health care under your insurance plan, which is when they are referred to as “extraordinary” medical costs. Deductibles and copays are the most common uninsured medical expenses, and they can compound quickly if your son or daughter has an illness that requires regular doctor appointments. A well-drafted child support order will include how much of a child’s unreimbursed medical expenses each parent must pay.
Child support, on the other hand, is all the costs associated with caring for a child’s basic needs — and this includes healthcare premiums. Uninsured medical expenses are not counted as child support and must be paid separately from other child support needs. This doesn’t release either parent from financial responsibility, though. North Carolina child support orders usually make it clear that these costs should be shared between parents, but it’s not uncommon for the written child support agreement to be unclear as to how child support medical bills are to be divided.
When a child support agreement doesn’t fully address the situation, or when the noncustodial parent disputes the necessity of the appointment or treatment, the custodial parent might struggle to collect payment. In a situation like this, here’s what you should do.
Steps for Pursuing Payment From the Noncustodial Parent
If you are the custodial parent who has incurred those uninsured charges, your first action will be to issue a written request to the noncustodial parent within 30 days of your child’s uncovered procedure or treatment, outlining all the expenses and what they were for. When you reach out to the other parent, do so in a way that respects the procedures outlined in your existing child support agreement. The noncustodial parent may pay you or the provider directly, unless a court order states otherwise. Never give or accept cash as a payment; make sure that all transactions are recorded through a check or money order. Make copies of all records, bills, and receipts in case you are asked to provide proof of these costs.
If the other parent fails to make a payment by the deadline you’ve indicated after issuing the payment request, you have the right to pursue payment through court intervention. Their failure to pay your child’s uninsured medical costs will have the same penalties as the failure to pay regular child support. These penalties could include property seizure, license revocation, tax return interception, garnishment of wages, contempt of court charges, and so on.
North Carolina Guidelines for Uninsured Medical Costs
The guidelines for dividing uninsured medical costs vary by state. Some states require that the out-of-pocket costs be split, based on the average monthly income of each parent, while others demand that the noncustodial parent share the expense when the uninsured cost is more than a specified percentage of the regular child support payment. Some states even require the noncustodial parent to take all the remaining out-of-pocket costs after the custodial parent has paid up to a certain amount. If you aren’t an NC native, find out what your state’s law is here.
In North Carolina, the law states that the annual obligation of support per child is $250 for uninsured medical or dental expenses and that, “In any case, including those where a parent’s income falls within the shaded area of the child support schedule, the court may order that uninsured health care costs in excess of $250 per year (including reasonable and necessary costs related to medical care, dental care, orthodontia, asthma treatments, physical therapy, treatment of chronic health problems, and counseling or psychiatric therapy for diagnosed mental disorders) incurred by a parent be paid by either parent or both parents in such proportion as the court deems appropriate.”
In essence, the first $250 in out-of-pocket costs are paid by the custodial parent while everything exceeding that amount is paid by the noncustodial parent or divided between two parents according to their monthly incomes (or in another manner according to the discretion of the court).
Talk to an Attorney at Collins Family & Elder Law Group
In any case, it’s always a good idea to involve a family law attorney in matters of child support and medical expenses. An attorney can mediate on your behalf, explain financial obligations to a noncustodial parent, modify your original child support agreement to propose new terms for uninsured medical expenses, and petition the courts for unpaid costs if private communications with your ex-spouse are unsuccessful.
At Collins Family & Elder Law Group, our supportive and experienced child support lawyers can offer reliable legal counsel to make your life easier during a difficult, financially strenuous time. Call us today to schedule a consultation or ask us more about NC and SC child support laws for the noncustodial parent.