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What is Medical Support in California?

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Are you a parent who is getting a divorce? Or, are you involved in a paternity issue that may soon involve child support? In any case, if you are dealing with a child support matter in Los Angeles, you will be interested in learning about one very important aspect of child support under California law – it’s called “medical support.”

Like other states, California ensures that both parents are financially responsible for their children in the event of a breakup, legal separation, or divorce. But, the California courts cannot enforce this obligation until it makes a child support order.

Before we dive into medical support, we want you to know that parents are legally obligated to support their children until they turn 18, or 19 if they are living at home and in high school full time, and are not able to support themselves.

The mother or father can open a child support case and ask the judge to issue a child support order in any of the following cases:

  • Divorce,
  • Legal separation,
  • Annulment,
  • Paternity,
  • Domestic violence restraining order, or
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (this action is for unwed parents who signed a Declaration of Paternity OR for married parents or registered domestic partners who do not want a divorce or legal separation).

Now that you understand what types of court actions can address child support, let’s dig a little deeper into medical support – what it is and who’s responsible for it.

Medical Support in California Child Support Cases

Under state and federal law, every child support order in California must include a “medical support” order. The way it works is depending on the circumstances of the case, the court will require that one or both of the child’s parents to provide health insurance for their child. However, the court will only order this if the health insurance is available at a “reasonable cost.” If it would place too much of a financial burden, it won’t necessarily be ordered by the court.

Under Section 3751(a)(2) of the California Family Code it reads: “In any case in which an amount is set for current support, the court shall require that health insurance coverage for a supported child shall be maintained by either or both parents if that insurance is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost to the parent.”

Sec. 3751(a)(2) continues, “Health insurance coverage shall be rebuttably presumed to be reasonable in cost if the cost to the responsible parent providing medical support does not exceed 5 percent of his or her gross income.”

Section 302.56(3) of the Code of Federal Regulations says that parents must, “Provide for the child(ren)’s health care needs, through health insurance coverage or other means.”

What you should know about medical support:

  • Under the Family Code, health insurance also includes dental and vision coverage, not just standard health insurance.
  • If the health insurance exceeds 5 percent of the parent’s gross income, the cost of health insurance is NOT considered to be “reasonable.”
  • With the insurance, the routine medical care must be accessible.By accessible, the state means that the children should be able to receive medical care no more than 50 miles away from their residence.
  • The payments for medical support are NOT included in the standard child support payments. Instead, they are “in addition to” the regular monthly child support payments.
  • Uninsured medical insurance costs (any medical costs not covered) are to be divided among the parents by the family court.

Special note to paying parents: Are you getting your first child support order? Or, is your existing child support order being modified? Either way, the court is going to want to see proof of how much the medical insurance costs because you can deduct it from your income before the court calculates your child support payments. This means it can help reduce the amount of child support you pay each month.

Help. I Can’t Afford to Pay Medical Support!

Southern California is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire United States. In fact, the cost of living is right up there with Silicon Valley and New York City. That being said, maybe you can’t afford to pay medical support. Maybe it’s so expensive, you don’t have enough money left over to pay the rest of your basic expenses.

If you cannot afford to pay the standing medical support order, there’s something you can do about it. You can petition the court to either modify or end the medical support order. If you need relief with medical support, a child support lawyer from our firm can help you.

Changing Child Support in Los Angeles

When it comes to family law cases, including child support matters, just about everything is subject to change. In fact, very few family law matters stay the same over the years. It is not uncommon for a child support or child custody order to be outdated or to no longer reflect the current circumstances, and child support orders are no exception.

If your circumstances have changed significantly, you can ask the court to change how much child support is being paid. It usually makes sense to modify an existing child support order when either parent experiences changes related to the following:

  • Their income,
  • The other parent’s income, and
  • The amount of time they spend with their child.

For example, let’s say you have been paying medical support because you job had great insurance benefits, but you got laid off. In the meantime, your former spouse gained access to excellent benefits while you lost yours. In this case, it may make sense to ask the court to change the medical support order so your ex can now take over the medical support payments. This is a perfect example of how things can change.

Related: FAQs About Child Support in California


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