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Who pays for children’s health insurance in a Texas divorce?

The sharing of parental rights and responsibilities extends beyond the end of a Texas marriage. Divorce agreements define the physical, legal and financial duties of co-parenting. Among the most important considerations is how children's medical needs will be covered.

Health support obligations are not optional. Federal laws, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and state laws require parents to make sure children's medical expenses are met. Parents or -- in the absence of a spousal agreement -- judges also decide how uncovered medical costs, like co-payments and deductibles, will be paid.

Non-custodial parents often include children on their health insurance policies, whether the plans are offered by employers or purchased independently. When both parents have employer-provided coverage, children may be listed on both policies. One insurance company is the primary carrier, while the other acts as a backup for expenses that aren't covered by the first policy.

Courts assess the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the payment of children's insured and uncovered medical and dental costs. In some circumstances, neither parent has an employer-provided plan or can afford private insurance. Income-based government programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, may fill the gap.

As long as parents are in agreement about medical coverage, a judge does not have to make these choices. However, whatever decisions spouses or courts make about medical responsibilities or other provisions of a divorce settlement are binding. It is acceptable to ask a divorce lawyer what could happen, in the event the other parent doesn't follow through with the terms of the agreement.

The Affordable Care Act also imposes penalties upon parents who fail to provide proof of health insurance for dependent children at tax time. It may be helpful to discuss the law's impact on a divorce settlement with an attorney and tax implications with a financial counselor.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "How to Handle a Child's Healthcare after Divorce" accessed Mar. 11, 2015

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