Most Virginia men are honorable. They take responsibility for the children they sire, either in or out of marriage. Part of that responsibility includes costs for medical care. After a divorce, for example, you may agree to cover a large portion — even the majority — of medical bills for your child. It is noble. It is the right thing to do. But then, what if circumstances change? What if you can no longer afford to pay?
Establishing Child Support & Medical Care Costs
In Virginia, if you are the non-custodial parent you generally agree to provide child support (including medical care costs) through a property settlement agreement. You may also be ordered by a judge to do this, as when you and the child’s mother were never married but your paternity is not in question.
Child support is calculated using Code of Virginia § 20-108.2, where numbers are derived strictly from the combined gross income of both parents. The amount each parent must pay is apportioned based on income levels, custody, and other factors.
Under the same law, however, costs of medical coverage are added to, not part of, that monthly child support payment:
The costs for health care coverage as defined in § 63.2-1900, vision care coverage, and dental care coverage for the child or children who are the subject of the child support order that are being paid by a parent or that parent’s spouse shall be added to the basic child support obligation.
Virginia’s courts are neither blind nor deaf. They know that obligations like health insurance and kids’ clothing cost parents a lot of money. That is why, for example, the custodial parent will have income factored into child support, on the assumption that a sizeable chunk of the custodial parent’s income goes toward care and maintenance of the child.
Discuss with your attorney how best to handle the costs of health insurance coverage for your children; you may be able to lower your declared income by that amount.
Modifications to Child Support
You may have meant well when you first agreed to pay the majority of your child’s medical expenses. Circumstances change, however, and you may find yourself hoping to modify the child support order.
Perhaps you change jobs, lose healthcare insurance, or face a child with growing medical issues that cost more and more money. If you and the child’s mother are in agreement about modifying the amount you are paying, some Virginia courts will modify the child support arrangement without a hearing.
If you and the child’s mother do not agree (if she insists you continue to pay 75 percent or more of the child’s medical expenses), you and your attorney can petition the court for a modification to child support. Your argument would be that your material change in circumstances makes the high medical bills a hardship for you. Your attorney will advise you on how this process will unfold. Your case would go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) district court that originally handled your child support hearing.
As we have noted elsewhere in these pages, modifications to child support can be justified only with significant changes to circumstances:
- 25 percent or greater reduction in income
- Substantial unpaid medical or dental bills
- 25 percent or greater increase in health insurance costs
- Health insurance changes (your employer modifies your coverage through no action or fault of your own)
- New health condition or disability
You cannot voluntarily reduce your income, get yourself incarcerated, or revoke healthcare insurance as a ploy to get a modification to child support, including medical expenses.
Modifications to child support follow Code of Virginia § 20-108, cannot be retroactive, and can be expedited by the court for members of the military.
Looking at the Whole Package
You may not be able to reduce the steady flow of medical bills related to your child. Your goal with getting a modification to child support is not to make those bills disappear.
You are trying to get the court to see that, taken together, your contribution for child support and the medical bills are too great a burden. The court cannot say, in effect, “we order the medical professionals to charge 25 percent less.”
The court can lower your monthly child support payments to take into account the increasing burden of the medical bills. It is a whole package, child support and medical bills.
In addition, the court can consider unreimbursed medical expenses separate and apart from healthcare insurance costs. These are paid by each parent in proportion to their respective incomes, as shown in § 20-108.2 (D):
“… parents pay in proportion to their gross incomes … any reasonable and necessary unreimbursed medical or dental expenses. The method of payment of those expenses shall be contained in the support order. Each parent shall pay his respective share of expenses as those expenses are incurred.”
Call The Firm For Men’s Child Support Attorneys
Unreimbursed medical expenses, health insurance, and child custody payments are extremely complicated and always in flux, as your child is always changing. What worked as a reasonable expense when your child was done with pediatrician visits may no longer be helpful now that braces, acne and broken limbs (from sports) are the daily fare.
Your best defense against the continual drain on your bank accounts is a good attorney. You want to do right by your child, yet you also need to hold onto some income for your own life.
Divorce and child support are complicated. Please allow The Firm For Men to uncomplicate your life. Contact us today or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184 so we can help you modify your property settlement agreement, preserve your future financial security, and defend your rights.