If you are a parent who is headed towards divorce, soon you will be getting very familiar with California’s child support laws. In California, both parents are legally required to financially support their children in the event of a breakup, paternity action, legal separation, or divorce. Parents are required to support their children until they turn 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school full time, living at home, and can’t support themselves.
Generally, the parent who has the child for less overnight visits is the one to pay child support. However, the more time the parent has with the child, the less child support he or she ends up paying.
State & Federal Laws Address Medical Support
Under state and federal law, divorced parents are required to do more than financially support their children. They are also supposed to provide health insurance – this is technically called “medical support.” The way it works is that every child support order in the state is supposed to include a medical support order.
But, this does not automatically mean that the parent who pays child support is required to pay for health insurance. It has more to do with the availability of affordable health coverage. Under the law, one or both parents can be required to provide medical support as long as it is available at a “reasonable cost.”
Section 3751(a)(2) of the California Family Code says, “...the court shall require that health insurance coverage for a supported child shall be maintained by either parent or both parents if that insurance is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost to the parent.”
Under Sec. 3751 of the Family Code, a “reasonable cost” is defined as health insurance that does not exceed 5% of the paying parent’s gross income.
Note:Under the Family Code, medical support includes standard health insurance, but it also includes dental and vision coverage. Lastly, the routine medical care must be within 50 miles of the child’s residence – it has to be accessible.
What if a Parent Can’t Afford Medical Support?
LA, Ventura, and the San Fernando Valley are very expensive places to live. When your rent or mortgage is north of $2,000 a month, it can be impractical to come up with hundreds, if not thousands every month for medical support.
If paying medical support would make it impossible for you to pay for your basic living expenses, you can ask the court to modify or end a medical support order. If you need help with a child or medical support issue, we invite you to contact Cutter & Lax for help.