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How do health insurance costs factor into California child support?

If you take a look at a random child support order in California, you’ll see health insurance costs have been factored in. Although in family law it is common knowledge that health insurance is embedded into California child support orders, what many people don’t understand is how or why it is included. Let’s go into detail how California family courts consider the health insurance coverage that parents own when calculating the California child support order.

The “why” should be obvious – the primary goal for children in any family law case is to ensure their best interests are met. Every party involved should strive for this – the family law courts, judges, attorneys, and the parents. In this specific area, we’re talking about the child’s best interests as it relates to their health. The “how” is slightly more involved. When a parent has health insurance coverage, including dental and vision, the family court will order them to maintain the insurance as long as that coverage is available for the supported child (either as a no-cost addition, or a reasonable fee). The cost of maintaining the health insurance is ordered in addition to the California child support amount, and this maintenance order carries the same weight and authority as the child support order. If a parent cancels their child’s health insurance when the coverage was offered free (or a reasonable cost), that parent can be held in contempt of the court order.

For parents who pay out-of-pocket for health insurance coverage, the California Family Code provides an allowance when calculating the California child support amount. This means the cost for the health insurance is used as a factor in determining the final support figures, and reduces the total amount of child support to be paid.

Let’s assume that neither parent has health coverage. What does this mean for the child? We’ve successfully handled many cases where neither parent had insurance, and it’s more common than you’d believe. In these instances, the court makes its standard orders requiring the parent to get coverage as soon as possible in order to preserve the well being of the child.

Standardized costs as factored into California child support

California has set guidelines that have been created to act as a standard for what is considered reasonable for costs associated with insurance coverage. This standard helps decrease the amount of litigation that can arise due to disputes between parents. Generally speaking, health insurance coverage for the child is considered reasonable if it’s less than 5% of the parent’s gross income, with the 5% being the difference in cost between the individual plan for the parent only, compared to the cost of the plan when the child is included. For example, let’s assume that a parent pays $3,000 per year for their health insurance, and they earn a $25,000 salary at work. The insurance cost to add the child is considered reasonable if the new premium is $4,250 or less (their base premium plus $1,250, 5% of their income). It’s important to note that a parent generally does not have a reimbursement right against the other parent for the cost of health insurance unless that parent incurred uninsured medical costs for a child – the child was covered by insurance, but it didn’t meet all of the costs associated with treatment. In these scenarios, we’ve seen the paying parent able to recover up to 50% of the cost against the other parent as part of the child support order. If you have a California child support order and you have questions or need clarification, reach out to our offices to set up a consultation. There can be many small details that are part of an order without any sort of explanation or cause. Regardless of your need, our family law attorneys have years of experience assisting with existing and imminent California child support orders. Contact us with the details of your situation so we can assist.

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