Divorcing in Washington and Children’s Health Insurance
According to a recent Gallup poll, 15 percent of Americans say healthcare costs are their family’s top financial concern. The pressures aren’t likely to go away; medical experts project that, in coming years, spending for health care will likely grow at a higher rate than in recent years, perhaps averaging as much as a 5 percent increase each year.
Divorce Adds to Financial Strain, But Washington State Courts Are Primarily Concerned About Children
Financial and legal experts agree that divorce can put additional strain on a family’s finances. Pressures aside, the state of Washington insists that divorcing couples place the health care interests of their children above any disputes that the two spouses or ex-spouses may have. Following amendments to domestic relations statutes in 2009 [see particularly, RCW 26.09.105], whenever a Washington court enters or modifies a child support order in conjunction with a divorce or legal separation, the court will require both parents to provide “medical support” for any children.
Medical Support = Insurance and Cash
The law defines medical support as both health insurance coverage and necessary cash medical support. Parents should pay careful attention to the requirements. Generally speaking, in addition to insurance premiums, each parent must pay his or her proportionate share of uninsured medical expenses – including co-pays, deductibles, and any portion of the health care costs not covered by insurance.
Other Health Care Considerations
The Washington court typically considers a number of other factors, including the following:
- Generally speaking, if both parents have access to health care coverage, say through their employers, the Washington court will make an assessment as to which parent has the better coverage and will order some sort of sharing of any necessary premiums.
- Unless the court deems other arrangements to be in the best interest of the children, parents must maintain health insurance coverage until the child reaches emancipation or until health insurance is no longer available through the parents’ employer or union and no conversion privileges exist to continue coverage following termination of employment.
- Under most fact patterns, the parent’s monthly payment toward the health insurance premium is limited to 25 percent of that parent’s basic child support obligation.
- The court has the discretion to excuse a parent from the responsibility of providing health insurance coverage or from a monthly payment toward the premium. In virtually every case, however, the Washington court will require both parents to contribute their proportionate share of the cost of uninsured medical expenses.
- Every order requiring a parent to provide health care or insurance coverage must be entered by the court in compliance with RCW 26.23.050 and be subject to direct enforcement as provided under chapter 26.18 RCW. Under this law, the Washington Division of Child Support (DCS) can, for example, serve wage withholding on employers in other states.
Washington State is Serious About the Care That Must be Provided for Children
Provision of adequate health insurance and support for uninsured expenses must be accomplished while the parties work out a host of other issues between themselves. The dissolution of a marriage is always a difficult scenario. Emotions run high. Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. has more than 30 years of combined experience providing quality legal services to individuals throughout the Pacific Northwest. Our firm handles all sorts of domestic relations issues, including divorce, child support issues, and division of marital estates. At Blado Kiger Bolan, we don’t believe in complicating matters and driving up costs. If there’s a simple solution, that’s our first choice. We work closely with you to resolve matters quickly and economically. Contact us on the web or call our office at 253-272-2997.