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You are scheduling your first family vacation with your kids since your divorce. How do you plan this vacation with your ex in mind? What do you or do you not tell them or do in that vacation? Here a few tips on how to make your vacation planning go smoothly:

1. Do not tell your children first!

You have planned a vacation to Disneyland and want to share the news with your children. Your boss has approved your vacation time and it will be scheduled for the upcoming holiday break from school. You know the children will be excited, but when should you tell them. The best tip is to wait to tell the children until after you have spoken with the other parent and all details are set.

2. Review the custody and parenting time sections of your Judgment.

Before you ask for the time off for vacations with your children, read over the custody and parenting time provisions in your judgment and orders entered after the judgment. Do you understand the limitations listed in the paragraph on the Hague Convention? Are you traveling to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention? Do you know where to find those countries? Read the provisions for holiday parenting time. Are your plans within your schedule time? Have you allotted enough time to deal with canceled flights or other delays due to weather? How much notice are you required to provide the other parent? What information must be shared pursuant to the terms of the judgment? If any of the provisions or terms are unclear to you, you may need to consult an attorney to determine what you will need to do.

3. Talk to the Other Parent

Before you book a flight or reserve a hotel suite, talk to the other parent. If you need extra days to accommodate travel, ask how you can arrange this. Be willing to give up some of your time around your travel to have the time you need. Put any agreements reached with the other parent in writing and follows the terms of your judgment. If you are deviating from the terms of the judgment, put those in writing and have both parties sign, in front of notaries preferably. If there is a disagreement about your proposed travel plans, contact an attorney for assistance in working out the disagreement.

4. Give Advance Notice

Provide advanced notice to the other parent of your intended holiday or vacation plans.  Do not wait until the time specified in your judgment or the last minute. If the other parent is not in agreement or is holding the passport hostage, you will have enough time to seek the assistance of an attorney. If the other parent refuses or disagrees with your travel plans, you will have plenty of time to bring a motion before the court.

5. Provide all the Information and a Tentative Schedule

Giving notice in advance and talking to the other parent should include all the information and tentative schedule, even if your judgment does not require it. Being generous with this information may ease fears or anxiety that can lead disagreements. Provide this information in writing, an email is fine. This provides proof of the information communicated, if it is later needed. Be sure to answer the following in your notice:

  • Where are you going and for how long?
  • What are your travel plans?
  • How will you travel? By plane, car, train or bus? Be willing to provide the details of your travel, including airline, flight number and flight schedule.
  • Who is going with you and the children?
  • Where do you plan on staying? Provide all the information.
  • Have you made reservations or booked flights yet?
  • Do you need the child’s passport or immunization records?
  • What is the schedule like and when can the child and other parent communicate during the trip? Is communication with the other parent the best for the child?

If you are providing copies of confirmations or receipts for any reservations or bookings, feel free to redact any information that details with costs or account numbers.

6. Get Paperwork Early

Determine if the children will need a passport or visa. If this is the case the other parent normally must sign the appropriate paperwork. If the other parent has the passport, you will need to obtain it from them. If the other parent refuses to sign paperwork or turn over the passport, you will need time to file a motion with the court. There should be time to allow for enforcing the court’s decision, if the other parent is defying the court’s orders. This may take weeks or months to accomplish, so waiting until two weeks before the schedule trip may be too late.

            A sample email notice to the other parent may look like the following:

Dear Co-Parent,

As you recall, I have Spring Break next year, I have a vacation planned for this school break with the children. I have not informed the children yet, but I want to surprise them with it after speaking with you. Below is the information for the proposed plan.

On Saturday, April 4, 2019, the children and I will leave at approximately 7a.m. from my home. We will fly out of Detroit Metro to Orlando on United. I am looking at a 9 a.m. flight that will land around 11 a.m. in Orlando. This will be a direct flight. I will provide you with the exact times and flight number after I have booked the flight. We are staying for five nights at Disney All-Star Movies Resort, address and telephone. On Wednesday, we will drive down to Miami, Florida and stay in my parent’s condo, address and telephone. We will return to Orlando to catch our return flight home on Sunday. After retrieving our luggage, getting a quick dinner and driving, I expect that the children will arrive at your home around 8 p.m. The children will give you a call when we land and when we are on our way to your home.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns. As always, I will have the children contact you in the evenings. I will have my cell phone with me the whole time, if you need to reach us.



            You are not required to provide this information to the other parent (unless your judgment or order says differently); however, this act of good faith and spirit of cooperation may may co-parenting around the holidays easier. Finally, this behavior, even if not witnessed by the children, will last far into their future as the children will know that they had two parents who loved them and worked together for their benefit.

If you or a love one his having trouble planning their vacations with the other parent in mind, call us today. We can help make redefining family easier.

            In our last few blogs we have discussed what is holiday parenting time and what holidays are observed. But what happens if a holiday is important to your family and it is not listed in the holiday parenting time schedule. There are some holidays celebrated across the generations as part of one’s ancestral culture or religion that may not be recognized by the mainstream. This does not mean that a divorce will now end this tradition for your children. Here are some tips to handle those unscheduled holidays.

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            Ask the other parent to allow you to spend time with children. If the tradition has been ongoing, talk to the other parent. Ask that she allow you parenting time to celebrate this holiday with the children. You may have to remind her of the importance the holiday has been in your lives and reinforce your desire to continue its celebration with the children.

            Document agreements in writing. When the other parent agrees to allow you parenting time with the children for a holiday, document your agreement in writing. You do not need a formal written order to document your agreement for one year, but if you are looking to make celebrating the holiday an annual tradition with the children, adding it to the court-ordered holiday parenting time schedule will remove the uncertainty for the years to come. Both you and the children can count of being able to celebrate as a family. If it is a special occasion that you have requested, then exchanging text messages or emails that clearly state you both agree and what are the logistics may be enough.

            Show gratitude to the other parent. If you have received an agreement to celebrate an important holiday with the children, express your gratitude to the other parent. The parent could have denied you this opportunity, but instead showed respect for your traditions. This olive branch should be recognized, and gratitude expressed for the kindness and respect being shown to you.

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            Inform your attorney. The best approach about handling unscheduled holidays that are important to you and honor family traditions is to communicate those holidays to your attorney. If your attorney is unfamiliar with the holiday, you may have to explain the importance of the holiday to your attorney. Request that your attorney includes the holiday in the negotiations for holiday parenting time. Insist on mentioning the holiday in any mediation summary or trial brief that the attorney will have to write during your case. You may have to educate others why continuing this holiday tradition is in the children’s best interests.

            Celebrate the requested holiday with your children. If you have taken the steps to have parenting time on an unscheduled holiday, give the other parent advance information about how the holiday will be celebrated. Share what time you will pick up the children and when the children will return home. If the children need special clothing or equipment, communicate this. Finally, show up to celebrate the holiday. The other parent should not be asking you if you are coming to pick up the children for a holiday that you specifically requested.

            If you are having difficulty being granted time with your children on holidays not recognized by the Friend of the Court but have a long tradition in your family, call us today. We understand that in our diverse society there will be holidays celebrated that do not make the standard Friend of the Court holiday parenting time guidelines. We are here to help you preserve and pass on the family traditions to your children.

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            When it comes to holiday parenting time, there are only four holidays besides the Christmas break that are recognized in the State Court Administrative Office’s Michigan Parenting Time Guideline. Those holidays are Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. There are also provisions for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The guidelines state that parties are free to choose up to four (4) other secular or religious holidays. However, many county Friend of the Court offices have a standard holiday parenting time schedule.

            Sometimes our client have felt that they are required to follow the standard schedule for their county. This would be true if an Order from the Court states that the parties must follow the standard schedule. This will happen if the parties are unable to agree how to share parenting time. However, parties can work together to create a schedule for holidays that meets the best interests of their children within a judgment entered by consent. In this type of order, the parties are agreeing to continue to raise their children and exercise parenting time schedule that they have agreed upon that can deviate from the county’s standard schedule.

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            Often, this deviation occurs to celebrate religious or secular holidays that are not recognized by the court system. Secular holidays, such as Halloween or Martin Luther King Day,  are not recognized by some counties and can be included in the holiday parenting time schedules. Parties are free to alternate the holidays, split the time on the holiday, or allow the parent that observes the holiday to exercise additional parenting time. The key in choosing to add non-traditional holidays to the parenting time schedule is to preserve family holidays and traditions in the lives of the minor children.

            For instance, extended family members may gather at one house on Halloween and take all the children trick-or-treating in that neighborhood. Often, the costumes may be themed throughout the whole family and include the family pet. In these cases, finding ways to still walk around a neighborhood with the minor children in costumes will demonstrate how to have healthy relationships with extended family members to children. If the parties are unable to be civil for a few hours, then alternating the holidays can teach children to share as they observe their parents and extended family amicably sharing time with the children.

            If you are worried about continuing your families’ holiday traditions after a divorce or break up, call us today. Our team understands the importance of preserving family traditions and maintaining consistency for children. We are ready to help you redefine your family.

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            The legislature in Michigan recognized that the best interests of children living within the state who are affected by either the divorce or separation of their parents is best served by having and preserving a strong relationship with both parents. Children have a right to parenting time with both parents unless the court determines on the record by clear and convincing evidence that exercising parenting time with one parent would endanger the children’s physical, mental or emotional health (MCL 722.27a). Parenting time includes weekday dinners, weekends, and holidays.

            Holiday parenting time is the time that a parent spends with the children during a specified holiday, such as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holiday parenting time will take precedence over regularly scheduled parenting time. This may result in one parent have two or three weekends in a row with the children because of the holiday day parenting time schedule. The standard holidays observed across the state as part of holiday parenting time include Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas (Winter) Break, and Spring Break.

            Each county will have a standard holiday parenting time that county Friend of the Court office will use. However, parents should be work together and create a holiday parenting time schedule that maintains the family traditions that the children have grown up with. Some parties will include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the children’s birthdays, religious holidays, other extended school breaks, and Halloween in their parenting time agreements. Holidays are rotated on an annual basis with extended school breaks such as Christmas break and summer break being equally divided by the parties.       Many of the Friend of the Court office across the state have published their standard parenting time schedules online. Wayne County even breaks parenting time down by age.

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            The best parenting time schedule for children of any age is one that considers the child’s age, extracurricular activities or anticipated extracurricular activities, the distance between the parties’ home, the parties’ work schedules, and the observed holidays of the family. By agreeing during your divorce or custody proceeding on a parenting time schedule that includes the celebrated holidays for your family the joy of the holiday will continue after the judgment has entered.

            We know how important it is for children to experience holidays with only the joy, awe and wonder that a child has. We educate our clients how to preserve this childhood excitement for holidays as the family structure is redefined.  Our firm’s unique approach to redefining family can help you find a holiday parenting time schedule that serves your child best interests and promotes a strong healthy relationship with the other parent. Call us today to see how we can help you redefine family.

            You have been to mediation with your attorney. The mediator helped both parties reach an agreement on all the issues in the divorce case, including division of personal property, division of debt, determination on what to do with the marital home, and all issues involving the children. The first question asked by many clients is “What’s next?”

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            The first thing to happen is that the mediator will record the agreement. Most mediators do this on a tape, but a handful will type out the settlement agreement. If the mediator records the agreement on a digital recorder, then a transcript or copy of the recording is forwarded to both attorneys for the parties. If the settlement agreement is typed out, the parties and their attorneys review it for accuracy and then sign the document. This written document then is incorporated and merged into a Consent Judgment of Divorce. Both parties state under oath that each have entered into the agreement voluntarily and knowing that the matter could have gone to trial where the judge could award more, award less or about the same as the agreement reached.

            Reaching this agreement at mediation does not end the divorce. One attorney, typically the plaintiff’s attorney, will draft a Consent Judgment of Divorce based on the agreement that the parties reached. The document is exchanged back and forth as the attorneys and parties ensure that the language of the proposed judgment reflects the agreement accurately. On the day scheduled for trial, the court will hear the testimony of the parties that provided the reasons for the divorce and that a final settlement has been reached by the parties. There is a date certain issued by the court for the parties to return a judgment, if it is not ready on the scheduled date for trial.

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            But what happens when one party during this process decides that he or she will not sign the judgment. The refusing party believes that refusing to sign the judgment will halt or slow the process down and in effect delay the divorce. However, that party is mistaken. In Michigan, when one party abruptly changes his or her mind after reaching a mediation settlement, the other party can request the court to enter the judgment without the refusing party’s signature if the judgment complies with mediation settlement.

            When this happens, the judges in southeast Michigan, which our attorney has appeared before, have entered the judgment after questioning the refusing party’s attorney to determine if the proposed judgment does comply with the settlement. This is an awkward moment for our attorney as an officer of the court, because as an officer of the court, she must be truthful with the court while advocating for the client. Often, the reasons provided for refusing to sign a judgment have nothing to do with language but have been based on another motive. But when there is a dispute over the language, it is resolved by the judge and the judgment enters without one party’s signature.

            If you are going through the divorce process without an attorney and are about to enter mediation, call our office for assistance. We know how to guide you through the process and how to assist you when the other party decides to back out. It is not too late to obtain the assistance of an attorney who knows how to redefine family in amicable ways.

You have just been served with papers for divorce. Your mind immediately envisions scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer v Kramer. This vision you have may not happen in southeast Michigan. Most divorces in southeast Michigan are not resolved by the court, but rather by the parties during mediation. In Oakland County, parties are required by the court to attempt mediation with a trained mediator before proceeding to trial.

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In 2016, there were 3,416 divorces filed in Oakland County. Currently, there are six judges sitting on the family court bench. This means that each judge is handling roughly 500 new divorce cases per year. If every case was resolved though the court process alone, a divorce could take years to finalize. However, mediation allows the court to handle this many new filings and gives the parties final say over the terms of the divorce judgment.

            Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can resolve a divorce case outside of the court process. Mediation involves the use of a third party who is neutral, referred to as the mediator. The mediator is trained and often will be another attorney who has practiced in family law. The mediator is familiar with the local judges, how the judges will typically rule on a given issue, and what relief the judges typically does not grant. The choice of the mediator is often agreed to by the parties or their attorneys. If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, then the court will select a mediator from a blind draw for the parties. The cost of mediator’s fees is typically shared equally by the parties.

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Mediation can occur in many ways or forms, but the most common used in southeast Michigan is facilitative mediation. The mediator may have both parties and their attorneys in the same room or may have them in separate rooms. The choice of how the mediation occurs is determined by the mediator in advance of the parties’ arrival. Both parties present their issues in a written brief called a mediation summary. This is often prepared by the parties’ attorneys and present one party’s positions and requests for relief to the mediator. After considering both sides, the mediator makes suggestions to each side on how the issues can be resolved. Reaching a resolution on the issues at mediation is voluntary. Neither party is required to agree to the mediator’s proposal.

One reason that parties prefer to mediate a divorce to a final resolution is that mediation is cheaper than litigating the matter through a trial. There are other reasons such as giving the parties control over the terms of the judgment that will benefit all family members. Other reasons include that the proceeding is less formal than trial, the proceedings are confidential, and the conflict experienced early in the process is diminished as each party is heard and able to express their concerns.

  However, mediation is not always right for everyone. If one spouse is hiding assets, then mediation would not be ideal. The court may determine after a hearing that mediation is not appropriate for the parties when domestic violence is present. Mediation may not be appropriate when one party is using fear, threats, or intimidation to achieve desired outcome or prevent the other party from freely communicating.

Deciding whether your case is right for mediation is a discussion to have with your attorney. For more information on mediation in divorce cases, contact Melissa Pearce & Associates at (248) 676-8976. Our client coordinator is ready to schedule your pre-engagement meeting.

            Parenting time is referred to as quality time spent between the child and a parent. Parenting-time orders are based either the parties’ agreement or the court’s determination of the best interests of the child. Under Michigan law, the presumption is that it is in a child’s best interests to have a strong relationship with both parents.

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            A strong relationship with a parent is unique to each parent and child. There are no set activities or amount of time that will develop a strong relationship. The key is to adapt as the child ages. The types of activities a parent may do with a younger child will be different with a teenager. We have five tips to help maintain your strong parent-child relationships, even when your parenting time is limited to alternating weekends. This means that the parent is exercising fifty-two overnights with the child.

Our first tip is to increase the number of positive reactions with the child. Researchers have said that it takes five positive interactions for each negative interaction with a child. When a parent is limited to alternate weekend parenting time, overcoming negative interactions with the child can be difficult. Often, the parent may feel like it is impossible to overcome one negative interaction. Researchers suggest aiming for physical connections, playing with your children, limiting technology during your interactions, listening while showing empathy to the child, and showing up.

Our second tip is to find activities that interest your child. When parenting time is limited, the key is to focus on activities that interest the child and maintain a healthy emotional connection with the child. Two key ways to finding the activities that interest your children is to respect the child’s choices and make them a priority in your life. With limited parenting time opportunities, this feel like the parent is the one who is making all the sacrifices for the child. But this is what a typical parent does, regardless of marital status. As community recreation and club sports replace traditional school-based extracurricular activities, more parents are spending their weekends sitting on sidelines and cheering on their children in a chosen sport. By taking time out to cheer your child on from the sideline or even volunteering to coach, the parent can reinforce a healthy relationship that can be strained the demands of the school year.  

Our third tip for maintaining strong relationships is to eat meals as a family.  With the demands on family life, eating as a family can difficult. For parents exercises weekend parenting time, make definite plans to have dinner at the table, without technology, and spend time talking to your child about their week, struggles, and achievements. The conversations may be more one-sided when children are eager to return to technology or activities with their friends.

The fourth tip that we have is to develop and maintain bedtime rituals. Rituals may be the only time busy families can spend quality time with children. Bedtime rituals can be tailored for the age of the children. With young children, snuggling and reading a bedtime story or creating stories together can be a treasured time to reassure a young child that they are safe in the dark. As the child begins to read, the story can reinforce and encourage strong reading skills that will lay a solid foundation for upcoming education. Even teenage children can have bedtime rituals involving parents finding special ways to communicate their love.

The fifth tip is to never use your parenting time to discuss any aspect of the case with the child. Your children only have one childhood. Do not share your issues or problems with the child. Your children are not here to solve your problems. They need to be able to be children without the stresses of your life as well.

Parenting time issues are very common in this day and age. If you are experiencing any issue in parenting time contact us today! We would love to help you redefine your family for the better.

Divorce or separation often opens an opportunity for a person to start fresh and take on opportunities they might not have been able to previously. Sometimes, this involves making a big move a far distance from the area where they lived while with their former partner. However, when parents share joint legal custody, their child has a legal residence with both parents. If this is the case, the distance of the parent’s big move is limited by Michigan law.

Prior to 2001, custodial parents were permitted to move their child anywhere within the state without court permission. Conversely, custodial parents were required to seek court approval to move their child out of state, even if that distance would be less than an in-state move (i.e. – Detroit to Grand Rapids v. Detroit to Toledo). To resolve this contradiction, the legislature enacted MCL 722.31, better known as the “100-mile rule.”

The 100-mile rule provides that when parents share joint legal custody, the child’s legal residence cannot be moved more than 100 miles from the original legal residence without the consent of the other parent or permission of the court. The child’s original legal residence is determined at the time a divorce or custody action commences. Distance is measured in a straight line, rather than in the number of road miles between the two locations. For example, the distance in road miles from Detroit, Michigan to Saginaw, Michigan can be anywhere from 100 to 120 miles depending on the route taken to get from one to the other. On the other hand, the distance between the two in radial miles is 88 miles. Therefore, in this example, a move from Detroit to Saginaw would not require the consent of the other parent or permission from the court.

When a move would require permission of the court, the court will consider the following in determining whether the change of legal residence is appropriate:

  • Whether the move will change the quality of life for both the child and the relocating parent;
  • Whether each parent has complied with and exercised parenting time and whether the parent’s plan for moving is an attempt to prevent or inhibit the other parent’s parenting time;
  • Whether, if the move is permitted, the parenting time schedule can be modified to ensure that the parental relationship between the child and each parent is preserved and fostered and whether the parents will follow the modification;
  • Whether the other parent’s motivation for opposing the change of residence is to gain a financial advantage with regard to child support; and
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether it was directed against or witnessed by the child.

When parents have joint legal custody of a child, the court often determines that the child has an established custodial environment with each parent. Simply stated, the child looks to both parents for things like guidance, support, and discipline. If a change in legal residence would affect the established custodial environment, the court must also consider the best interests factors codified in MCL 722.23. The relocating parent will be asked to prove that the move, and resulting change in the child’s established custodial environment, are in the child’s best interests. The best interest factors include:

  • The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child;
  • The capacity of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance;
  • The capacity of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The permanence as a family unit of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;
  • The moral fitness of the parents;
  • The home, school, and community records of the child;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents; and
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.

Finally, it also worth noting that even when a parent has sole legal custody, there may be a limitation on their ability to move. Michigan Court Rules 3.211 provides that judgments or orders awarding custody (sole or joint) must include provisions regarding the following:

  • the domicile or residence of the child may not be moved from Michigan without the approval of the judge who awarded custody;
  • any change in the minor’s address must be reported to the friend of the court in writing by the person awarded custody; and
  • a change in legal residence of the child must be in compliance with MCL 722.31.

Clearly, parenting a child after separation (whether through divorce or otherwise) means that extra consideration must be given when one parent seeks to move their residence. As far as the law is concerned, the interests of minor children will always be put above the needs or wants of their parents. Chief among these is the child’s interest in having a close and continuing relationship with both parents.

If you are considering a move and are subject to a judgment or order awarding custody, it essential that you contact an experienced family law lawyer. Making such a move without following the proper procedures could subject you to severe criminal penalties.

Objections to reimbursement for extraordinary medical expenses can be based on the necessity of the expense, a claim that the parent has already paid the expense or to raise any similar defenses to the demand for reimbursement. The objection will be raised by the parent from whom reimbursement is being sought.

One of the objections is that the health expense was for services that were not a medical necessity. Medical necessity has been defined as health care services or supplies needed to diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease, or its symptoms and that meet accepted standards of medicine. The question becomes who determines if the treatment is a medical necessity. Is it the treating health care provider, the insurance company, politicians or the court? The answer is it depends on when the determination is being made. For medical reimbursement objections, the final determination will be made by the court after reviewing both medical records and insurance records. A requesting parent can be prepared to meet this objection by acting while the treatment is ongoing or shortly thereafter.

The first step in defending against any future objections is to get the documentation immediately. If a health care provider has recommended treatment for the child that is not covered by insurance and will exceed the ordinary uninsured health care threshold, then a request to the health care provider to write a letter detailing why the treatment is a medical necessity is the first step in preparing for such an objection. Retaining copies of all correspondence from the insurance company will also assist in the process. If insurance is provided by other parent, ask that parent to sign whatever documents are necessary to allow copies of insurance correspondence regarding the minor child to be forwarded to non-insuring parent. These steps can be strategic in overcoming objections to reimbursement requests.

For instance, in a matter for extraordinary health care reimbursement handled by this firm, the father contested paying his pro rata share of residential psychological treatment for his child and cited that it was not a medical necessity. The child was being treated for suicidal ideation and depression. The child had been hospitalized for an extended period and spent much of the time at the residential treatment facility on “suicide watch.” When the insurance refused to cover further time at the facility, the custodial parent continued the treatment given that the child had not been taken off suicide watch. The custodial parent had to obtain copies of the treating psychiatrist’s notes, treating therapist’s notes, and staff notes from the facility. Given the age of the child and the mental health code in the state where treatment occurred, the consent of the child to release the records was required. After reviewing the notations about the child’s state of mind and persistent threats to commit suicide, the Friend of the Court Referee determined that the continuation of the treatment for the child was a medical necessity. The father’s objection was based solely on the denial of coverage from the insurance provider. The father did not appeal the Referee’s recommendation to the court.

In another matter for extraordinary health care reimbursement, the paying parent objected to the reimbursement of uninsured expenses for dental treatment. In this matter, the child had chipped a tooth. To properly repair the damaged tooth, a space between the tooth and adjacent tooth had to be repaired. The objection raised by the paying parent was that the additional repair was not a medical necessity. After the requesting parent provided a letter from the treating dentist regarding the treatment and review of the records by a dentist of the paying parent’s choice, the court determined that the treatment was a medical necessity.

As for the other objections that can be raised against reimbursement, detailed record-keeping and accounting should resolve any objection. If parents share joint legal custody, each parent should notify and give the other parent an opportunity to be present for all routine medical, dental, optical and psychological treatment. Furthermore, joint legal custody means that the parents should consult together and attempt to agree before major decisions are made affecting the child’s health. When parents work together on treatment decisions for their child, the agreement should also encompass how the treatment will be paid or reimbursed.

If you are struggling on determining medical necessity with your ex, contact us today! We can help you navigate medical reimbursements with peace of mind.

One of the more nuanced issues involving child support is reimbursement for medical expenses. When one parent is ordered to pay child support, the monthly amount they pay includes a contribution to ordinary medical expenses of the child or children. The Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF) states that “ordinary medical expenses include the support recipient’s co-payments and deductibles, and uninsured medical-related costs for all children in this case.” (2017 MCSF 3.04(A)(3)). However, issues arise when the parties’ child incurs substantial medical expenses that are greatly in excess of what is considered “ordinary”.

Looking again to the language of the Michigan Child Support Formula, we see that “additional (extra-ordinary) medical expenses consist of the support recipient’s out-of-pocket expenses that exceed the children’s ordered annual ordinary medical expense amount and any uninsured medical expense paid by the support payer.” (2017 MCSF 3.04(A)(4)). The annual ordinary medical expense amount is set by the State and serves as a baseline that can be used in the majority of cases. Courts are permitted to add amounts to the State’s standard amount ($403 in 2017) when it is known at the outset that a child will incur higher expenses. Once a child’s medical expenses exceed the annual amount, the parents share the cost of those expenses based on each parent’s share of the family income. Each parent is responsible for a certain percentage of extraordinary medical expenses.

So what is the remedy when one parent refuses to pay their percentage of extraordinary medical expenses? The parent who is seeking reimbursement for medical expenses should submit a request for health-care expense payment to the other parent within 28 days of either the date the insurance provider has paid on the expenses or the date the insurance provider denies payment. It is important to note that we are talking about reimbursement. That means that the parent must pay the entire amount of expenses themselves and ask the other parent to reimburse them for the portion they are obligated to pay. If the non-paying parent agrees to pay their portion, the parties should make an agreement in writing that lists the expenses to be paid, the total amount to be paid, and the schedule for payment. The agreement must be signed by both parties. If the other parent fails to pay according to the agreement, the parent seeking reimbursement must submit the bill to the friend of the court within six months in order for the friend of the court to enforce payment of the expense.

If the non-paying parent refuses to make an agreement to pay their portion, the parent seeking reimbursement can request that the friend of the court enforce payment of the expenses. To do this, the parent must show that they requested payment within 28 days of the date notified of the balance due after insurance payments and the other parent failed to pay their portion. Bills must be presented to the friend of the court within 1 year of when they were incurred, or six months after the insurer has made a final denial of coverage for the expense. As such, it is essential that a parent requesting reimbursement be aware of how much time has passed since the expense was incurred.

When the parent seeking reimbursement makes a complaint with the friend of the court for enforcement, they must also give notice to the non-paying parent that they have made the complaint. The non-paying parent has 21 days from the time that notice is sent to file a written objection with the friend of the court. If the non-paying parent does not object, the unpaid expenses will be added to that parent’s support account as a healthcare support arrearage.

It is essential that parents be diligent record keepers regarding health care expenses as documentation is required both to secure payment directly and to request the friend of the court to enforce unpaid health care expenses. Parents should make sure that they keep a copy of all medical bills and keep track of the total amount owed by the other parent. Because the parent seeking reimbursement must pay the bill in full first, parents must also be sure that they have proof of such payment. A good way to keep track of bills is to create a spreadsheet that includes columns for the name of the child receiving service, the name of the medical provider, the date of service, the type of service, the total medical cost, the amount paid by insurance, the balance due, the percentage to be paid by the other parent, and the amount owed by the non-paying parent.