Payment of Medical Expenses for the Children

Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Theodore Sliwinski, Esq.

1. My wife is requesting that I pay for more than three thousand dollars worth of past medical expenses for the children. She has filed the motion and she is seeking “blood” from me. Will the judge require me to pay for these medical bills even though I was never consulted about them?

In the year 2008, the New Jersey Courts addressed this issue in the case of Gotlib v. Gotlib, 399 N.J. Super. 295 (App. Div. 2008).  In this case issue the primary issue was whether custodial mother waive medical reimbursement for the children when she did not consult the non-custodial father in advance. Moreover, the wife did not provide monthly medical bills to the husband in contravention of the terms of the judgment of divorce. The Gotlib court held that a parent’s obligation to pay un-reimbursed medical expenses is an essential benefit to the parties’ children. As with child support, the right to receive these payments belongs to the children and is therefore not subject to waiver by a custodial parent.

The Gotlib court further established a legal test to analyze whether past due medical expenses can be collected from a non-custodial parent.  In deciding the reasonableness of a reimbursement request, some factors include: (1) was the treatment medically necessary; (2) was the medical treatment in response to an unforeseen emergency requiring immediate action; (3) did the treatment involve elective or cosmetic medical services, and if so, was it in the best interest of the child involved to undergo such treatment; and (4) in cases of elective or cosmetic medical treatment, was the decision economically sound, given the parties’ financial resources. Nonetheless, the non-custodial parent from whom reimbursement is sought still  retains the right to question the reasonableness of any individual medical expense.

In my experience, in the vast majority of the cases the courts will apportion the payment of the medical expenses for the children according to each parties’ respective income. The defense that; “My wife never told me about the medical bills for the kids” very rarely works. You might be able to “chop off” a few bucks from the medical expenses reimbursement claim. However, in 95% of the cases you will lose your battle. Most judges routinely rule in favor of the custodial parent’s motion to compel the non-custodial parent to pay for any of the out

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