Raising kids can be a rewarding but expensive journey, and this financial responsibility can become more challenging after a divorce. For divorced parents, ensuring that their children’s medical and dental needs are met is not only a legal obligation but a fundamental part of responsible parenting.
Fortunately, Arizona has robust child support laws in place to make sure that children’s needs are met, especially when it comes to their health. In this guide, we’ll explore child support in Arizona, with a special focus on medical and dental support, to help divorced parents navigate this essential aspect of co-parenting.
Child support in Arizona is a legal requirement that helps guarantee that both parents contribute to the financial well-being of their children, even after divorce. This support is typically calculated based on a specific formula that takes into account each parent’s income, the number of children, and various child-related expenses.
Arizona law mandates that parents bear a legal responsibility to provide “reasonable support” for the care and welfare of their children. Section C of the statute underscores that a parent’s child support obligation, whether biological or adoptive, takes precedence over any other financial commitments. Given the weightiness of this obligation and the court’s unwavering commitment to safeguard the child’s best interests, adherence to child support payments is treated with great seriousness.
Child support matters are customarily addressed within the divorce decree and are consistently reinforced through a court order. Child support typically continues until the child reaches the age of 18 (or graduates from high school, whichever comes later). However, it’s important to note that under specific circumstances, the child support order can be adjusted or terminated.
One crucial aspect of child support is ensuring that children receive proper medical and dental care. In Arizona, this includes what are known as “extraordinary medical expenses.” These expenses cover medical and dental costs that go beyond routine check-ups and basic care. They can encompass a wide range of services, including surgeries, orthodontic treatments (like braces), and more.
Medical and dental coverage can be acquired through various means, including private health insurance plans, employer-sponsored plans, or government programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Occasionally, the court might specify which parent should be tasked with procuring the insurance coverage, taking into account factors such as its affordability and accessibility.
In addition to medical insurance coverage, both parents also bear responsibility for sharing the costs of medical expenses that are not covered by insurance, often referred to as uninsured or out-of-pocket medical expenses. These expenses encompass deductibles, copayments, prescription medication expenses, dental care, vision care, and other medical services that fall outside the purview of insurance coverage. The court typically establishes the proportional contribution from each parent based on their individual incomes and financial capacities.
When it comes to extraordinary medical expenses, both parents are typically expected to share the financial burden. If one parent is responsible for these expenses, they are legally obligated to provide documentation, such as bills or invoices, to the other parent as proof.
When a child faces necessary medical, dental, or vision expenses not covered by insurance, the custodial parent is required to request payment or reimbursement from the non-custodial parent within 180 days of the service.
The non-custodial parent is obligated to pay their portion (as per the initial court order) within 45 days. This can be done by directly paying the provider, reimbursing the custodial spouse, or establishing suitable payment arrangements with either party.
Throughout this process, both parents can request receipts or proof of payment from the other parent to validate the payments made. If either parent fails to fulfill their financial responsibility, the court has the authority to modify the existing child support order to accommodate the new obligation.
Failure to provide payment or reimbursement for special medical expenses is taken as seriously as missing regular child support payments in the eyes of the court. When child support goes unpaid, it accumulates into what’s known as arrearages, and there are several ways the state can enforce payments.
Unpaid child support can be collected by taking money directly from your wages or intercepting your tax refunds. For more severe consequences, your driver’s license can be revoked, and you might face contempt of court charges. In extreme cases, not paying child support can even lead to jail time.
If you’re a parent seeking payment or reimbursement for these special medical expenses, you can initiate child support enforcement actions if all the following conditions are met:
In some cases, the circumstances of one or both parents may change, affecting their ability to meet the medical support requirements as initially ordered by the court. It’s possible to request a modification of the medical support order to better align with the new situation. This process typically involves demonstrating a significant change in circumstances, such as a job loss or a significant change in income.
When there’s a child support order for multiple kids, and one or more of those children becomes independent (we call this emancipation), one of the parents, typically the one responsible for paying support, needs to officially request a change. The support order won’t automatically decrease just because one child is now independent, and it’s essential to make this modification request promptly when the situation calls for it because child support changes can’t apply retroactively.
Ensuring that your child’s medical and dental needs are met is a shared responsibility, even after divorce. If you have questions or concerns about child support, especially medical and dental support, it’s essential to seek legal guidance.
At The Peterson Law Firm, we specialize in family law and can provide the expert assistance you need to navigate these often complex matters. Your child’s health and well-being are paramount, and we are here to help you fulfill your legal and parental responsibilities. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for personalized guidance and support. Together, we can ensure that your child receives the medical and dental care they need and deserve.
We value each and every one of our clients, employees, friends, and neighbors. Together, we have a social responsibility as a community partner to take proactive measures to keep our community well and to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Our office will remain open during regular business hours. However, we are implementing some additional precautions to limit social interactions and personal proximity. Specifically, we will seek to conduct consultations, meetings, conferences through video teleconferencing or on the phone whenever possible. Should an in-person appointment be needed, then we will coordinate those on an appointment basis.
If you have questions about your case and the status of the court, then please call. Our Firm will continually monitor the status of the coronavirus, so we are prepared to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.
From all of us at The Peterson Law Firm, please stay well.