Did You Know That Health Insurance For Kids Can Cause a Divorce Battle?

There is a divorce court form that exists which makes it mandatory for minor children to be covered by a child health insurance policy at all times, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

This California divorce document is called the “Notice Of Rights And Responsibilities ‘Health Care Costs And Reimbursements’” (FL-192 for short), and spells out the specific parameters divorcing spouses must stick to when providing health insurance for their minor children.

It is very easy for heated divorce battles to ensue when two spouses are attempting to decide on the party who will be responsible for the health insurance coverage for the children.

But, the family law courts have become accustomed to this kind of challenge and have therefore put measures into place to ensure that the epidemic of children without health insurance does not dominate the California adolescent population.

The two divorcing parties have their choice – they can either come to their own agreement outside of a courtroom regarding which of them will take care of the insurance payments; or they can leave it up to the divorce judge to make the decision for them.

If the parties opt for the latter and ask the judge to choose which one is to be held responsible, the judge will base his decision on factors very similar to how a guideline child support amount is determined: the number of children concerned in the divorce; the present gross income amount of each spouse; and the percentage of time the children spend with each parent, among other things.

The fact that the family law courts may intervene unfortunately does not make it less uncommon for many kinds of new divorce issues to be raised when it comes to determining the paying spouse in this health insurance situation.

First, there is the topic of adequate insurance coverage. Some courts are only concerned that the minor children have the minimal required health insurance, but don’t extend the court order to include additional coverage that the child may (or may not) need (which is to be decided once again by the court and the spouse who can prove that the extra insurance is necessary).

As the aforementioned family law court document, FL-192, clearly states, “Burden to prove. The party claiming that the coverage is inadequate to meet the child’s needs has the burden of proving that to the court.” (California Family Law Court Form FL-192, page 1, section 6a)

And in having to go through a divorce hearing to decide if more coverage is indeed necessary, the non-requesting party can attempt to request legal fees for said hearing from the spouse who originally initiated the inadequate insurance claim, thus causing just one more divorce issue to put on their plates about which to endlessly argue.

Then there is the issue of the spouse who decides not to go through the hassle of a court hearing to change the insurance order, and instead makes the choice to purchase more insurance coverage for the children on his or her own.

How does this cause a divorce battle?

The spouse who bought the extra health insurance may try to use the minor children as pawns in the situation by claiming the opposing parent does not care about the kids if he or she is not willing to participate in payment of the extra fees for better or more insurance than what the court has ordered.

Though this type of “guilt trip” may seem unfair, the same family court form, FL-192, contains a section which protects the spouse who opposes the extra insurance. “Cost of additional coverage. If a parent purchases health-care insurance in addition to that ordered by the court, that parent must pay all the costs of the additional coverage.” (California Family Law Court Form FL-192, page 1, section 6b)

Last but not least there is the issue of the spouse who makes the choice to break the law and either refuses to insure the children, or shirks his or her responsibility altogether by failing to submit the payments to which he or she is obligated.

As with missed child support payments, the courts will impose penalties on the spouse who participates in this negligent behavior, with punishments ranging from fines to be paid, to the paying spouse’s driver’s license being suspended for a period of time, to spending a few nights behind bars to get across the seriousness of the offense.

But if the paying spouse does not meet the monthly obligation to fund the health insurance fees, will the minor children suffer as a result?

The answer is no, because the family law courts have the interests and protection of the minor children in mind first and foremost, and will therefore make sure their health is always taken care of without excuse.

As the infamous family court form FL-192 says, if one party becomes negligent in payments then the other party may file a motion in court to prove this in attempt to recover the fees plus the costs of any attorney services rendered during this particular battle.

Avoiding all the above divorce drama is a relatively easy task – simply sit down with your spouse, take the time to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement about the minor children’s health insurance coverage, and enjoy the stress-free life of not asking the courts to make your family decisions for you.

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