CALCULATING “ADD-ON” CHILD SUPPORT IN NEW YORK: HEALTH-RELATED EXPENSES

This blog post is fifth in a six-part series on child support in New York State. The purpose of this series of blog posts is to guide you through the basics of calculating child support and to leave you feeling comfortable and confident in your understanding of New York child support law.

Most parents going through a separation or divorce, whether they’re in mediation, Collaborative Law or in a court-based litigation process, are aware that some form of child support payments will be warranted in their case – if they have children under 21. But the details of exactly what amount of child support to expect can get confusing.

In the first three posts in this series, I explained how to calculate the basic child support obligation, which is the initial part of a child support award. The last three posts in this series, including this one, will help you understand how to calculate the second part of a child support award, the “add-on” categories.

Additional (“Add-On”) Categories of Child Support

Under New York law, the basic child support obligation is not expected to cover every expense in a child’s life. There are three special areas of expenses that the law individually breaks out and accounts for in a child support calculation. They are child care, health and education. This post will explore the child support rules concerning health-related expenses.

In a New York divorce or child support case, a court must determine the parents’ responsibility to provide health insurance benefits for the children and their respective responsibilities for payment of health insurance premiums and unreimbursed medical expenses. Please note that this blog post is focused on families whose children are covered by private insurance plans, as opposed to those covered by government-sponsored plans.

Provision of Health Insurance Benefits
If the child is already covered by a parent’s health insurance plan, the court will order that that coverage continue unless either parent requests a change. If either parent requests a change in coverage, the court has the discretion to order that the child be covered by the either parent’s (or both parents’) insurance, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Where the child isn’t yet covered under a health insurance plan, but one or both parents do have health insurance available to them, the court must order that one or both parents cover the child.

Payment of Health Insurance Premiums
The cost of providing health insurance benefits is shared pro rata by the parents based on their income. If the custodial parent is providing the insurance, the non-custodial parent’s share of that cost is added onto the basic child support obligation. If the non-custodial parent is providing the insurance, the custodial parent’s share of that cost is subtracted from the basic support obligation.

Payment of Unreimbursed Medical Expenses
Even when a child has full health insurance coverage, there are many health-related expenses that may not be covered, partially or entirely, by insurance. When that happens, one or both parents incur “unreimbursed medical expenses.” As part of a child support award, the court assigns each parent a pro rata percentage of responsibility for all reasonable unreimbursed medical expenses.

As with child care, a court orders the parents to share responsibility for reasonable health care expenses only. This means that a parent who incurs medical expenses a court might deem unreasonable, and who does so without the knowledge and consent of their co-parent, is at risk of shouldering those expenses alone.