No doubt you recognize the importance of providing health benefits for your children. As a consequence of divorce, you may be particularly concerned about the costs. How exactly is the financial burden worked out between the parents?
First, you should know that all decisions regarding children are made in the best interests. Since health insurance is a definite issue, it is something that an experienced family law attorney will review with his or her clients. Assuredly, this will include a consideration of all available health coverage options.
In fact, children’s health insurance premium costs are a matter for consideration of child support payments. Therefore, it is imperative that parties embroiled in a divorce provide their lawyers with information relative to the price of health coverage. And, also indicate if one parent will continue to assume payments.
To reiterate, projected premium amounts for children’s health benefits is crucial to the court. Payments or credits may be allocated according to the submitted financial statements.
Depending on the circumstances, child support awards may be increased or decreased as a result of the payment of health benefits. In fact, a recent New Jersey Appellate Court opinion deals with this very issue.
Child Support and Health Benefits
To begin with, you should be clear that the case under discussion is considered unpublished even though it appears on the internet. As a result, the court’s opinion is not precedential and only applies to the named parties.
You may be interested in reading the entirety of Spano-Terlizzi v. Spano, N.J. Super. App. Div., which just became available. At the very least, you will benefit from a brief history of the matter.
Michelle Spano-Terlizzi and Lee Spano married in 1999. Although they divorced in 2010, they parented two children together. One child is presently twelve years old; the other is sixteen. After their divorce, Michelle remarried and had another child with her new husband.
When the parties divorced, the marital separation agreement called for Lee to provide health insurance through his employer’s policy. Presumably, his child support obligation was partially based on his share of health benefits for the couple’s children.
In 2013, Lee lost his job, and as a result, his access to health coverage for the children. Michelle’s new spouse, Michael Terlizzi has his own business that has a health insurance policy in place. Consequently, he added the children to his plan. Initially, there were no supplemental costs associated with providing benefits for his wife’s children from a prior marriage.
Notwithstanding, the cost of insurance went up. Reportedly, the premium soared to $507.44 per month on June 1, 2014. The increased expense for the children’s health benefits became part of Michelle’s motion to the court in April of 2015.
Court Motion Seeks Additional Contributions
As an aside, the motion brought by Michelle asked for additional financial contributions for the children. However, the funds were not only sought regarding health benefits. As it pertains to health insurance for the children, Michelle’s motion requested that Lee assumes the entire costs to insure their now twelve-year-old and sixteen-year-old offspring.
In response, Lee challenged whether Michael was actually incurring out-of-pocket expenses to afford health insurance coverage to the children. Based on documentation provided by Michelle, it appeared that Michael was not personally paying the premiums. Instead, his company was affording the payment. Lee opined that the insurance payments were therefore deducted as a business expense.
In August of 2015, Lee was ordered to reimburse the insurance premiums retroactive to June of 2014. However, the trial court did not require Lee to assume the current cost of benefits. Rather, the court made a decision based on the Child Support Guidelines Calculator.
Lee’s revised child support obligations were increased. In part, the calculation of support payments was based on the amount Michelle paid to keep her children insured.
Notwithstanding, there seemed to be discrepancies in the actual premium payments. The Appellate Court reviewed the differences and agreed that child support may have been improperly computed. As a result, the case was remanded to “determine the actual cost of the children's health insurance premiums and recompute child support.”