Child Support and Health Care Costs

iStock_000001334173_SmallChild support in California is governed by Family Code sections 4050-4076. This section of California law dictates that child support uses the “income shares model,” meaning the full amount of money needed to support the child will be divided proportionally based on each parent’s income. While the California Child Support Guidelines may seem complicated, the California Department of Child Support Services offers an online calculator to give you a better idea of how much child support you may be expected to pay.

There are many variables involved in calculating child support, including:

  • Monthly earnings of each parent (or earning capability)
  • The amount of other income either parent receives
  • The number of children the parents have together
  • The amount of time each parent spends with their children
  • The filing status of each parent
  • Child support from other relationships
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Uninsured health care expenses
  • Union dues
  • Retirement contributions
  • Daycare costs

Medical expenses and health care are some of the largest expenses when it comes to raising a child. Here’s an overview of the issues involved with health care costs, health insurance, and child support:

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses can be handled a number of different ways, depending on the terms of your child support order and the circumstances of your case. Unexpected and/or extraordinary medical expenses are often treated as add-ons, where the medical expense is added on to the support payment later on. If the parent providing child support pays for the extraordinary medical expense, it can be treated as a deduction; in this case, part of the cost of the health care will be deducted from subsequent support payments.

It is hard to designate an exact amount of child support for medical expenses because the very nature of these expenses is unpredictable. A judge will usually take this into account by adding a small amount to the child support order, then dealing with large medical expenses (e.g. an unexpected ambulance ride or emergency surgery) as they come.

Health Insurance

In addition to the child support guidelines already established, each parent is required by law to have health insurance for any children under 18 if it is available at little or no cost. If no coverage is presently available, either through work or other means, the parent must make sure the child is on a plan when it becomes available.

Parents paying child support must keep the child support collection agency in the loop when it comes to health insurance issues. The parent must inform the agency—as well as the other parent—when the child’s health insurance situation changes.

When both parents have health insurance, the custodial parent’s plan is typically treated as the primary plan. However, the court can review the terms and costs of each plan and make a different determination, and the non-custodial parent’s plan can be the primary plan by means of court order.