New Jersey State Law Pertaining to Unreimbursed Medical in Divorce

By Angie Gambone

Doctor examining girl

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In New Jersey, divorced parents are required to contribute to the financial needs of their children, including unreimbursed medical expenses. Typically, the parent receiving child support is responsible for paying the initial unreimbursed medical expenses up to a certain dollar amount per year. After that, the parents generally split the expenses in one of several ways. If a child has unique medical needs, a judge can always make a different ruling with respect to how much each parent pays. The bottom line is that unreimbursed medical expenses are always an important consideration when it comes to divorce and child support.

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses Defined

The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines define unreimbursed medical expenses in the Appendix section. These expenses include both medical and dental expenses that are considered "ordinary" by the court but that are not covered by medical insurance. This includes nonprescription and over-the-counter drugs, co-payments for doctor's visits and specialists, and any special equipment or products that a child might need. Medical expenses such as orthodontics, plastic surgery or elective procedures are not normally considered unreimbursed medical expenses.

New Jersey Child Support

When determining child support, New Jersey uses an income shares model. This means that the court uses the income of both parents to determine how much the non-custodial parent should pay. The income shares model also looks to see which parent earns more money and by what percentage. For example, if a mother earns $50,000 per year and a father earns $100,000 per year, then the mother earns 33 percent of the total income between the two and the father earns 67 percent. This becomes important in situations in which the court may require each parent to pay a bill in proportion to his or her income.

$250 Per Child Per Year

New Jersey requires the parent receiving child support -- the custodial parent -- to be responsible for the first $250 per child per year in unreimbursed medical expenses. Once the custodial parent has spent $250 on a child in a given calendar year, any remaining unreimbursed medical expenses would be divided up between both parents. There are some special circumstances in which the court can change this initial $250 threshold. That usually occurs when one child has exceptional medical needs that require expensive medications or frequent doctor's visits.

Dividing Expenses Above $250

Once the custodial parents pays the first $250 per child per year in unreimbursed medical expenses, the courts must enter an order that tells each parent what to pay for the remaining expenses. It is most common for the court to require parents to pay in proportion to their income percentage. A parent who earns 33 percent of income would pay 33 percent the remaining expenses and the other parent would pay the remaining 67 percent. Sometimes the court will simply order each parent to pay 50 percent of the remaining expenses. This occurs most often when the parents have similar incomes or the child's medical expenses are low. New Jersey law does not require that these proportions be divided in a certain way, and therefore the parents are also free to work out their own agreement.

Paying the Medical Expenses

Even when both parents are required to pay a percentage of a child's unreimbursed medical expenses, it is most common for the custodial parent to pay 100 percent of the expense directly and then submit a receipt to the non-custodial parent requesting reimbursement. If a non-custodial parent refuses to reimburse the custodial parent for these expenses, the custodial parent can file an enforcement motion with the court, asking the judge to force the non-custodial parent to pay. If she must do this, she can also ask the judge to require the non-custodial parent to pay her counsel fees and court costs.