Shannon Cavers of the Houston Divorce and Family Lawyer Blog has published several articles on reimbursement of children’s medical expenses. This is the first:
One of the many points of contention for divorced parents is the children’s medical expenses. However, with a little advance planning and organization, much of this controversy can be avoided.
Whether you are the primary custodian or the non-primary custodian, the starting place is your final decree of divorce. Your decree should include a section that spells out the provisions for health care. Within that section should be precise language stating how co-payments, out of network services, and uninsured medical expenses are to be handled between the parents. Your decree may differ, but usually, the parents split the cost of any medical co-payments, prescription drugs, and uninsured medical bills.
After reviewing your decree to understand the rules, the next step is to keep good records. If you take the child to the doctor, always request a receipt that clearly shows the cost for the office visit or service, the amount of the co-pay remitted (if any), and the amount to be submitted to the insurance carrier. If you are the parent who took the child to the doctor, then keep a copy of your canceled check or credit card statement to show payment was made.
An area where I see many of my own clients go off track is notification of the other parent. Do not rely on just verbal notification to obtain reimbursement, and above all do not make your children the messenger that one parent owes the other. Also, do not keep a backlog of these bills and/or send them on a sporadic basis. Instead, provide copies of the billing statements, prescription receipts, etc. to the other parent on at least a monthly basis so he/she knows what was provided and how much he/she must pay. If you anticipate difficulty in getting reimbursed for medical expenses, then it is critical to send copies of all documentation via USPS First Class Mail and via USPS Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. If the other parent does not pick up certified mail, and if the regular mail was not returned to sender for a bad address, then the presumption is that the parent received the bills. This is very important evidence should you need to file an enforcement action against the other parent.
To reiterate, the keys are: (1) knowing the rules established in your divorce decree, (2) keeping good records, (3) communicating effectively, and (4) maintaining proof of those communications.