Ending a marriage is almost always a process, especially if there are children involved. If you and your ex-spouse reside in Knoxville, TN and you will be the one paying child support, you might wonder if that involves covering all medical expenses.
The short answer is “yes” – child support can be used to cover medical expenses for your child. Child support is paid on a monthly basis in Tennessee until the child graduates high school or celebrates their 18th birthday, whichever happens first. As a general rule, you pay 12% of your gross weekly income if you and your former spouse have one child. If you have two children, you pay 16% of your gross weekly income. Three or more children means paying 19% of this income.
Like many states, Tennessee uses child support guidelines to determine how much financial support each parent can provide the child. For example, if you earn $9,000 a month and your ex-spouse earns $5,000 per month, you have $14,000 in combined child support. Because you earn more than your former partner, you pay more in support, which includes medical care. Since your earnings account for over two-thirds of the shared income, you pay over two-thirds of the child’s medical costs.
What if medical care is provided through employment or there are uninsured costs to contend with?
Perhaps your healthcare insurance is from your employer and allows you to cover your child’s medical expenses. How much you pay for the premium is used as a “credit” and factored into the child support calculations. Uninsured medical costs are divided in light of your and your spouse’s monthly income and can include:
- Dental and orthodontic care
- Therapy or other counseling services
- Hearing and vision care
It is typical for the parent with primary custody to pay these and all other uninsured medical costs as they arise, such as an experimental procedure for a chronic health issue or therapy where the psychologist or therapist does not take insurance. However, it is still both parents’ responsibility to pay such expenses. Your former spouse must retain receipts from these costs, which provides you with proof of payment for reimbursement purposes. If you earn more than your ex-spouse, you may end up paying the bulk of uninsured medical care expenses.
If your child has a chronic medical condition that is not covered by your or your ex-spouse’s insurance, such as a genetic disease or rare visual impairment, the related costs can accumulate quickly. In this instance, you might want to discuss modifying the child support agreement with your former spouse. If said spouse refuses to comply, contact a lawyer to have the child support agreement altered. Your ex-partner will likely have to pay more for uninsured medical expenses or at least as much as you do.
What if I need help paying my child support?
Child care payment support is available on the state level. To qualify for this type of financial help in Tennessee, your income must be below the 85th percentile of the state’s median income. Qualifying also requires having children aged six weeks to 5 years old, and working or going to school for at least 30 hours a week. You are additionally eligible if you participate in TN’s Families First program and require child care assistance to accommodate personal responsibility plan-related work activities. Other eligibility options are not available to men, such as teen mothers who remain in school and register for the state’s Teen Parent program.
The federal government outlines numerous state government programs via ChildCare.gov, such as Head Start and state-funded kindergarten programs. There are also federally-funded child support programs for military families by branch. For example, if you are a member of the Navy on active duty, a Reservist on active duty, or a Navy civilian, you might be eligible for Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood (MCCYN). To qualify, you must not “live near a DoD installation with a Child and Youth program” and are stationed at a location where fee assistance is available.
Other military family childcare assistance programs are offered by the federal government, such as the National Military Family Association. Military divorces work virtually the same as civilian divorces in terms of dividing child care costs. However, former spouses may be entitled to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) pensions if the 10/10 rule applies. This rule requires the marriage to have lasted at least 10 years and the service member to have served for at least 10 years.
If you need to modify your child support agreement because of increasing uninsured healthcare costs or any other reason, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Working with a legal professional is especially recommended if dealings with your ex-spouse are contentious and no agreement can be reached without going to court. The attorney provides counsel and representation to hopefully facilitate an outcome you are satisfied with.
Divorce proceedings and childcare agreements are often emotionally draining. Having an experienced attorney help you during this challenging time makes the process a little easier and less stressful. To work with an experienced Knoxville divorce and family law attorney, contact LaFevor & Slaughter. Our lawyers are here to handle all legal aspects of your separation and divorce. Call us today or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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