Divorced Spouse Not Paying Child's Medical Bills
By Heather Frances J.D.
When you divorced, your divorce decree probably laid out the requirements for your ex-spouse to pay a share of your child’s medical expenses, and it can be difficult to pay these bills when your ex-spouse doesn’t pay that share. You can enforce the terms of your divorce decree in court, including the provisions regarding your child’s medical care. Since child support is governed by state law, procedures vary by state.
Child Support Order
A child support order, often issued as part of a divorce decree, will usually address each spouse’s obligations for medical expenses. Generally, the order will address which parent is responsible for providing medical insurance for the child and how that insurance is paid. The order likely will state what percentage of medical bills each parent is responsible for paying if certain medical expenses are not covered by insurance.
Every state has an agency designed to assist parents with collecting child support, but if your ex-spouse is otherwise current on his child support payments, the agency likely cannot help you enforce the medical portion of your divorce decree. State agency enforcement authority is typically limited to past due child support. Since medical coverage is not part of the monthly child support payment, the agency may only be able to send letters to your ex-spouse.
You can file a motion through the court system to try to recover the amount your ex-spouse owes for medical care. Generally, the motion must be filed with the court that issued your divorce decree or most recent child support order. The court can hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court, which means he violated the court’s order regarding medical bills. Contempt of court can be punished by fines and jail time.
Once you file the motion, you must serve a copy of the motion on your ex-spouse, along with a summons. Your ex-spouse has the right to respond to the motion to dispute anything you said in it. Ultimately, the court may hold a hearing to receive evidence from both sides before making a decision. The judge may want to see copies of the medical bills or other proof of expenses.
Small Claims Court
Depending on the amount of money your ex-spouse owes, you may be able to file a case in small claims court if you paid the medical bills and need reimbursement from your ex-spouse. Small claims courts usually have a limit on the dollar amount they can handle, but the process is much simpler than a normal court procedure. The court will give you forms to fill out on your own since the system is designed to allow claimants to proceed without a lawyer.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.