When parents divorce, their children must deal with the consequences, but a California court will not finalize a divorce between parents until that court is certain that the “best interests of the child” or children have been served.
For California courts, protecting a child’s best interests usually includes ordering child support payments.
What are child support payments intended to cover? What can a court require?
WHEN PARENTS DIVORCE, WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES?
Of course, when you’re a parent, nothing is a higher priority than your children, so child custody and child support will inevitably be the two most important issues in your divorce.
After a California divorce, the non-custodial parent usually makes child support payments to the custodial parent to help cover a child’s basic expenses: housing, food, clothes, education, and healthcare.
With few exceptions, those child support payments are made until the child reaches age eighteen.
If divorcing parents can reach their own agreements regarding child custody and child support before or during the divorce procedure, they can save themselves a great deal of aggravation, time, and financial resources.
WHAT IF PARENTS CANNOT AGREE REGARDING CUSTODY AND SUPPORT?
But if divorcing parents cannot reach any agreement on these issues before or during the divorce process, the court will impose a resolution.
In most California divorces involving parents, a determination regarding the child’s (or children’s) health insurance will be part of that imposed resolution.
WHO IS OBLIGATED TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THEIR KIDS?
In California, parents with health insurance coverage, whether that coverage is employer-based or government-sponsored, must see to it that coverage for their children is included in the plan.
If the parents are married and cooperating, that’s not a problem, but if parents divorce, health coverage for the children gets more complicated – and sometimes even gets overlooked.
Subsequent to a divorce, parents must keep their kids covered by their health insurance.
WHEN CAN A CALIFORNIA PARENT DROP A CHILD’S HEALTH COVERAGE?
Under California law, parents may only drop healthcare coverage that includes a child when a plan becomes so costly that it exceeds five percent of that parent’s total gross income.
When a child has had health insurance coverage during the marriage, California parents who do not keep health insurance coverage for that child after a divorce may even face legal consequences.
WHAT IF THERE IS NO HEALTH INSURANCE?
Many families, as you probably know, have no health insurance coverage, and – for whatever reason – they cannot afford it. When the parents in these families divorce, the court examines their finances to decide if they can afford health insurance for their child or children.
Subsequent to that examination, courts may order divorcing parents to purchase health insurance for their children. The courts will sometimes help a parent find a government-sponsored plan that may help offset some of the parent’s costs.
In a general sense, child support payments are ordered by a court to ensure that a child is cared for properly and that the “best interests of the child” are protected.
WHAT IS EVERY CHILD’S RIGHT IN THIS STATE?
Every child in California – whether that child is born in or outside of a marriage or is adopted – has the absolute legal right to financial support from both parents.
If a parent is paying for a child’s healthcare coverage out-of-pocket, the court will take that into account when determining the parent’s child support obligation.
And as you might imagine, parents who are divorcing in California will need to prove to the court what they spend on healthcare and healthcare coverage for their child or children.
This means parents should hold onto every receipt and every other bit of paperwork regarding a child’s healthcare and health insurance.
WHAT ABOUT THE HEALTHCARE COSTS THAT AREN’T COVERED?
As we all know, health insurance does not cover all of your healthcare costs.
If you are divorced, and you have to pay something out-of-pocket regarding your child’s health, your child’s other parent is obligated to reimburse you for half of that cost, and California courts enforce that obligation.
Exactly how would that work? Let’s say that parent “X” has a child “Y” who is covered by X’s employer-based health plan. X must take Y to the ER, and X’s insurance plan requires X to pay a $1,000 deductible before insurance coverage will begin.
It’s an additional $1,000 beyond the insurance coverage and child support that X is already paying in compliance with the court-ordered custody and support agreement.
X can submit documentation and ask the court to order reimbursement from “Z,” the child’s other parent, for half of the $1,000, and unless the expenditure or the amount is disputed, Z will be obligated to reimburse X for $500.
The sharing of parental responsibilities does not end in California when parents obtain a divorce, and the courts can act to ensure that parental obligations are fairly and equitably shared.
WHEN SHOULD A DIVORCING PARENT SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY?
Calculating what is a fair and proper amount of child support is never easy, but then nothing about divorce is easy.
If you are a parent who is divorcing or considering a divorce – or even if it’s your spouse who is considering a divorce – you should speak at once to an attorney who has considerable experience handling child custody and child support disputes and every other aspect of a divorce.
A divorce attorney can provide the legal guidance and representation that a divorcing parent will need. You should make the call as early as possible in the process – before you file or respond to divorce papers.
Nothing is more important than your child. The right divorce attorney can explain how the law applies in your own divorce and help you make the right choices at every stage of the legal process.
DO YOU NEED A CUSTODY OR SUPPORT ORDER ENFORCED OR MODIFIED?
Subsequent to a divorce, you’ll also require a family law attorney’s services if you need to enforce or to modify a child support or child custody order in California.
When you divorce or deal with a child custody or child support matter in a California divorce, you must have a divorce lawyer that you trust – an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney who puts you at ease and works hard on behalf of you and your child or children.