Medical Insurance, Medical Expenses, Daycare, School and Extracurricular Expenses
Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/502(a)(2.5)) allows a Judge to order parents to pay more towards their children’s expenses than simply basic child support. The law allows the Court, in its discretion, in addition to setting child support pursuant to the statutory guidelines, to order either or both parents to contribute to the following expenses, if they are determined by the Court to be reasonable:
(a) health needs not covered by insurance;
(b) child care;
(c) education; and
(d) extracurricular activities.
Child’s Health Insurance: In Illinois, the parent paying support will most likely be ordered by the Court to also provide medical insurance (including dental and vision) if it is available through his or her employer or on a group basis. It does not matter if the obligor (the parent paying support) signs up for insurance for himself or herself, the child is still allowed to have insurance through his or her parent’s employer.
The law also states that if the parent ordered to pay support does not have access to insurance through employment, or if the obligor simply does not obey a Court’s order to enroll the child in his employer-offered coverage, the obligee (the parent receiving support) may enroll the child on his or her employer-offered insurance and the obligor must reimburse the obligee at least 50% of the cost of the premiums. Further, the Court “may order the obligor to reimburse the obligee for 100% of the premium for placing the child on his or her health insurance policy.”
Illinois law also requires employers to provide information about medical coverage availability directly to the parent receiving child support. The statute specially states that: “The obligor’s employer or labor union or trade union shall disclose to the obligee or Public Office, upon request, information concerning any dependent coverage plans which would be made available to a new employee or labor union member or trade union member. The employer or labor union or trade union shall disclose such information whether or not a Court Order for medical support has been entered.
The parent not providing health insurance for the minor child may have difficulty accessing information with the insurance provider that is necessary for the child’s medical care. In such cases, the custodial parent may seek the entry of a Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO) to obtain complete access to benefit information.
Uncovered Medical Expenses: The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides authority for the Court to order either or both parents to pay for a child’s medical expenses that are not covered by insurance. The definition of medical expenses may include co-pays, prescription costs, and out-of-pocket expenses for wellness, special care, and emergency treatment. Medical expenses may also extend to orthodontia, vision, and mental health services such as counseling. The way in which a child support order is drafted can have an enormous impact upon the parents’ long-term financial obligations. Clearly setting forth each parent’s obligation can often eliminate the need to return to Court in the future. Therefore, working with a knowledgeable, skilled family law attorney to represent you when child support and additional child-related expenses are being set can make a difference. Susan has the experience and the willingness to advice you of your options when setting guideline child support and apportioning medical, child care, extracurricular and education expenses.
Child Care Expenses: The Court expects both parents to contribute to child care expenses. The reason is to allow a parent to maintain employment, attend school or training, or to seek employment. These child care expenses include before and after school daycare and any other type of work-related child care. They also include “camp” over winter, spring, or summer break when school is not in session (such as those offered through a local Park District). The cost of child care expenses is to be allocated between the parents in proportion to their respective shares of their combined net incomes. A well-written order will define exactly what “child care” means, and it will also specify the manner in which payments are to be made and the entity or person to whom they are to be paid.
Legal disputes frequently arise in cases where a family member or friend provides care for a child. Often, the child care provider is paid in cash, does not report the payments as income, or does not provide receipts to the parents for payments made. In such cases, the Court may have to decide whether the supporting parent should pay a portion of the child care expenses, and if so, how much. The Court may also have to decide if the amount being charged for child care is reasonable in light of the child’s needs and the parent’s financial circumstances.
Other common issues arising with child care expenses include:
- Whether for the obligation to pay for a portion of child care expenses should be limited to periods in which the non-supporting parent is working;
- Whether the supporting parent should be given the option to provide care for the child before he or she is required to contribute to childcare costs for a given period (for example, the “right of first refusal” if a parent is going to be away from the child for a certain amount of time);
- Whether the child care payments should be made directly to the daycare provider, or whether one party should pay for the child care and be reimbursed by the other;
- What constitutes valid proof that child care services were necessary, or that the parent was working during that period?
The importance of a clearly articulated, well-written order regarding child care expenses cannot be overstated. Susan is an experienced family law attorney and is ready, willing, and able to assist you in this regard.
School and Extra-Curricular Expenses: Some courts may order parents to contribute to payment of school expenses or extra-curricular activity expenses. School expenses may include private school tuition and expenses, or may be limited to public school costs. A well-written Court Order should specifically spell out whether school expenses are limited to mandatory items (including registration, books, supplies, and field trips), or whether optional expenses (such as pictures, field trips, or yearbook fees) are also included. These expenses must be intended to enhance the child’s educational, athletic, social or cultural development.
Payment of extra-curricular expenses can often be a major area of dispute among divorcing and separated parents. Typically, Court Orders only require parents to share the costs of activities that are “agreed upon.” However, such Orders often lead to future disputes. For example, a parent might unreasonably withhold his or her consent to the child’s participation in a particular activity or a parent might claim that he or she never agreed to the child’s participation in an activity the child was previously enrolled in. When parents refuse to communicate with one another before enrolling the child in an activity, some Judges will order the parents to pay a portion of all extra-curricular activity expenses, up to a certain limit per year.
An Order to contribute to child support-related expenses can have an enormous effect on each parent’s financial future. To make sure that you understand your rights and obligations, you should consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney. Susan can provide settlement options regarding these expenses and help you to determine which option is best for you and your situation.