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How Health Insurance Costs Factor into Child Support in California

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | May 30, 2019

When parents make the decision to get a divorce, it's quite often the children who will suffer the most. California family law courts will typically require parents to deal with the major issues of child custody and child support. Custody and support are closely connected and a non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support.

Each parent has an obligation to financially support their children even if the children do not live with them. For this reason, family courts will award child support as part of a divorce if the couple has minor children. The money is used to pay for the daily living expenses of the child.

Timeshare custody is not the only factor that will be considered by the court that will have an impact on the amount of support obligation. Child support is normally calculated using a formula that considers every aspect of their life, including the cost of healthcare.

Parents that are covered by health insurance are required to ensure their children are also covered by their plan. The coverage has to last until the child is no longer eligible to be under insurance protection, which is where it can get complicated.

Health insurance premiums are an expense that someone will need to pay. Health care isn't cheap in California, and health insurance coverage is often a large expense. Parents are only allowed to stop healthcare coverage if the cost becomes prohibitive, exceeding 5% of their income, which is described under California Family Code 3751.

Any parent who fails to maintain health insurance coverage for their children can face harsh penalties because it's legally required. In other words, it's considered a violation of their child support obligations.

In this article, we will outline how the court factors in health insurance costs when setting child support. For more targeted advice, contact our California divorce lawyers.

How California Calculates Child Support

California has created a child support calculator you can use to estimate the amount you will have to pay. This calculator looks at several factors, such as:

  • The income for each parent
  • Each parent's tax filing status
  • The number of dependents living with each parent
  • The number of children child support is being awarded for
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child (called timeshare)

Based on this information, the formula will spit out an amount, which is the guideline amount of support. A judge can increase or decrease the guideline amount depending on the circumstances, but we have found that the guideline amount is a good estimate of what you will eventually have to pay.

Factoring Health Insurance Premiums into Child Support

The mathematical formula also considers the amount that a parent is paying in health insurance premiums. This amount gets offset against the parent's support obligation. For example, a judge might order you to pay $900 a month for child support. But if you are also ordered to buy health insurance, you can offset the cost of the insurance against your support obligations.

Typically, when parents are married, one parent will have the entire family on their health insurance. After a divorce, a judge will probably order the parent to keep his children on his health insurance. If you cancel the coverage, then you are violating a court order.

However, as stated above, you are not required to keep paying insurance if the costs become unreasonable, and California defines “unreasonable” as an expense that is greater than 5% of the parent's gross income. So if a parent earns $40,000 a year, then the child's insurance coverage is reasonable if it is $2,000 a year or less. But if the coverage for the child swells to $3,000, then the parent can usually cancel the coverage.

To determine whether insurance is reasonable, remember only to use the amount it costs to have children on the policy. A parent who pays $3,000 for himself but $4,500 with the child included is paying $1,500 for the child's coverage.

Obtaining Health Insurance if You Are Not Currently Covered

Many parents lack health insurance while married. When you divorce, a judge will take a holistic review of the entire situation and determine whether to order one parent to buy health insurance for the child. Again, the judge will consider whether there are any health insurance options that are reasonable, i.e., do not exceed 5% of the parent's gross income. If not, then the judge might order parents to use government-sponsored health insurance.

You can split the costs of health care. Health insurance rarely picks up 100% of the costs of care. In particular, health insurance usually has a deductible and co-pays. Health insurance won't cover all medical care the child may actually require. Insurance also only covers a percentage of the costs once the deductible has been paid.

Parents are responsible for taking care of their children, and this means contributing to the costs of medical treatment. If you end up making large health care payments, you can ask the other parent to pick up part of the tab. If the parent won't agree, you can ask the court for reimbursement.

Reach Out to our Los Angeles Child Support Attorneys

California's child support guidelines were designed to simplify the process of calculating support. As you can see above, calculating child support can get complicated when health insurance cost need to be determined.

However, health care expenses impact the amount each parent ultimately pays. If you have a question about health insurance or the costs of health care, contact an experienced child support lawyer in Los Angeles.

We have practiced divorce law for years, so we are well-versed on this area of law. If you need assistance calculating health care and child support, contact our family law attorneys. We can help you navigate through the process. For more information, reach out to us today. We offer a free initial consultation which you can schedule by calling our law firm or completing our online contact form.

Furman & Zavatsky
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436

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Encino, CA 91316
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