Dividing Uncovered Medical Expenses in an Arizona Child Support Case
Some people ask us how a child’s medical expenses that are not covered by insurance are divided between parents in an Arizona child support case. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the published case of Amadore v. Lifgren addressed that issue.
The mother, in that case, appealed a trial judge who did not divide the responsibility for a child’s uncovered medical expenses in proportion to the parties’ incomes.
She argued Arizona uses the Income Shares Model to calculate child support. In that model, the monthly child support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to their respective incomes.
Things like daycare costs are included in that calculation such that daycare costs are effectively divided between the parties in proportion to their incomes.
Uncovered medical expenses for a child, however, are not added into the child support calculation. These expenses are left for the court to divide between the parents.
How to Divide Uncovered Medical Expenses for a child
The mother argued uncovered medical expenses for a child should also be divided in proportion to the parents’ respective incomes. Thus, the higher earning spouse would be responsible for more of the child’s uncovered medical expenses than the parent earning a lesser income.
The Arizona Court of Appeals concluded Mother’s position made sense. However, the court of appeals also noted there was nothing written in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines requiring a judge to divide those expenses in proportion to the parent’s incomes. As a result, the court concluded a judge had the discretion to divide those uncovered medical expenses in any manner he determined to be in a child’s best interests.
The Law on Dividing Uncovered Medical Expenses for a Child
The Arizona Court of Appeals concluded that had the Arizona Supreme Court intended uncovered medical expenses to be divided in proportion to the parents’ incomes it would have included that mandate in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
Since it did not, the Arizona Court of Appeals concluded the judge is free to divide uncovered medical expenses in the manner it deems to be in the children’s best interests.
This case is interesting because not dividing uncovered medical expenses in proportion to the parents’ incomes seems counterintuitive to the clearly stated purpose of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines which does take the parties’ respective incomes into consideration when calculating child support in Arizona.
Uncovered medical expenses are typically not foreseeable and cannot, therefore, be included in a child support calculation.
One could argue the only reason medical expenses are not included in a child support calculation is that, unlike daycare, they are not predictable.
One could also argue that, although a mandate has not been issued requiring uncovered medical expenses to be divided in proportion to the parents’ incomes, the purpose of the Guidelines is to divide the expenses for a child in proportion to the parents’ incomes.
Furthermore, absent a compelling circumstance that dictates otherwise, the court should divide the children’s medical expenses in proportion to the parents’ incomes.
Call us at (480)305-8300 to schedule your personalized consultation with one of our divorce attorneys with experience in modifying child support in Arizona.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about dividing uncovered medical expenses for a child to ensure everyone has access to information about child support laws in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and child support attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce.