How Insurance Impacts Child Support in Florida
In this article, we’ll break down:
- Health Insurance Provisions in Child Support Orders in Florida
- When Health Insurance is Unaffordable or Unavailable
- When Medical, Dental, and Prescription Expenses Are Not Covered by Insurance
- Temporary Medical Support
- Life Insurance Provisions in Child Support Orders in Florida
Child support obligations go well beyond covering the day-to-day essentials like the food your child eats, the roof over her head, or the new pair of shoes she begged you to buy.
It’s also in place to make sure your child is covered should they get sick and need to visit the doctor, or if any other number of health-related expenses pop up.
As such, your child support order may require that you maintain health insurance for each of your children. In some instances where the court determines it necessary or in the best interest of the child, you may also be responsible to maintain a life insurance policy that protects support payments for your child if you, or your ex-spouse, pass away.
Health Insurance Provisions in Florida Child Support Orders
Florida law requires that your child support order include a provision for health insurance for each child. Because health insurance is typically rolled into the child support order, it is not calculated separately. So, if you pay your ex-spouse child support in Florida and you hold your child’s health insurance coverage through your employer, the health insurance premium taken out of your paycheck each month, or some portion thereof, should be deducted from your total monthly child support obligation.
The responsibility to maintain a health insurance policy for the child will typically fall to one parent. If both parents have separate health insurance policies, the court will typically include in its final order the policy that’s most cost-effective, unless it’s in the best interest of the child(ren) to do otherwise, such as if the more expensive plan provides better coverage for a specialized treatment that a child might require.
When drafting the child support order, the parent who holds the selected policy must show proof of insurance, and provide current insurance cards, to the other parent. This typically is ordered to occur within 30 days of entry of the final judgment.
In order for the court to accept that your child’s health insurance policy fulfills the requirements of the child support order, the insurance has to be accessible. Specifically, it must be available in the county where your child lives, or in the county of the parent with whom the child spends the majority of their time. If time-sharing is equal between both parents, then the insurance must be accessible in at least one of the counties where the child lives, and ideally where both parents reside.
What if Health Insurance Isn’t Affordable?
If one or both parents can’t afford to pay for health insurance for their child, the court may remove this requirement and note that neither parent is required to provide insurance – at least on a temporary basis – and leaving the door open to modify the same should circumstances change for the better.
In Florida, the court will consider the cost to be unreasonable if it exceeds 5% of the gross income of the parent.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that your child’s health insurance premium, and/or other medical costs will rise and become either unaffordable or unavailable in the future. As such, it is important to make sure that your child support order includes language which states that a parent is required to have insurance for their child “as long as it continues to be reasonably available.” This is important because it leaves the door open for a modification to the child support order related to the cost and availability of health insurance—something you’ll need should your insurance costs skyrocket above your ability to pay.
What About Medical, Dental, and Prescription Expenses That Aren’t Covered by Your Child’s Health Insurance?
All of a child’s healthcare expenses are bound by the child support order, including costs that fall outside of the monthly insurance premium. The order should also state that the cost of any non-covered medical, dental, and/or prescription medication expenses for the child will be added to the basic support obligation of the parents.
Of course, life happens, and sometimes medical and dental expenses will arise unexpectedly. For this reason, the court can designate a percentage share of the total expenses that each parent is responsible to pay for any health-related costs that are paid outside of the support order. This percentage should be the same as the income percentage allocated in the child support order unless the court finds some reason to deviate. If, for example, applying the income percentage to the percentage share for unexpected healthcare expenses creates a situation where one parent can’t provide food, housing, utilities or some other necessity for themselves, then the court may decide to shift the percentage share.
You Can File for Temporary Medical Support In Arrears if You Incurred Expenses that Your Ex-spouse Didn’t Pay
That time between when you and your ex-spouse separate and when you finalize and enter your child support order can become a bit of a gray area. If your child incurs health-related expenses during this time, then the court can put rules in place to make sure that those expenses are shared equitably.
In many cases, health-related expenses incurred before the child support order is in place are considered marital obligations or an element of support. So, if your child is hurt while playing baseball, and is treated in an emergency room for a broken arm before the child support order is finalized, both parents are still responsible for the associated medical expenses.
Let’s say that you pay the co-pay for that ER visit, but your spouse fails or refuses to reimburse you for their share. The court can then establish a temporary child support arrearage.
At a minimum, these health-related expenses would be considered marital debts, which in Florida are equally distributed. A temporary support order, however, looks at equitable distribution to make sure that each parent is paying an amount of support that fairly aligns with their income percentage.
Life Insurance Provisions in Child Support Orders in Florida
Like health insurance, life insurance can also impact a child support order. A court may order that one or both parents maintain a life insurance policy to secure child support payments.
When a court decides that a life insurance policy covering one or both parents is in the best interest of the child, it also has to consider other factors before obligating life insurance as a part of the child support order. Those other factors include:
- Is life insurance necessary to secure child support?
- Can the parent or parents afford a life insurance policy?
- Can the parent or parents obtain a life insurance policy?
While the court can require life insurance as a part of the child support obligation, it cannot require an excessive amount of coverage. The policy must secure prospective child support in the event of a parent’s death, but it does not need to go beyond fulfilling that requirement.
Your child or children must be named as the beneficiary of the life insurance policy in order to fulfill the child support obligation. Because they are minors, you’ll also have to name a beneficiary who you trust to make sure each child receives the funds and uses them properly.
Tip: If your child support obligation requires that you purchase a life insurance policy, take a look first at what benefits your child would receive, if any, from the Social Security Administration upon your death. There are cases where social security benefits are enough to replace child support, making additional life insurance unnecessary.
Ensure Your Child Support Order Has the Insurance Coverage Needed to Protect Your Child
An experienced family law attorney can help you better understand insurance provisions in child support orders in Florida, help you through the process, and ensure your child receives the support they need.
Contact us today for a free family law case evaluation. We’ll listen to your case and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with a Florida family law and divorce lawyer to help you solidify a fair child support order, fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.