While divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end the co-parenting relationship that exists between mothers and fathers. Understanding that your ex-spouse will still be involved in your life when you have children together can be the hardest thing for our clients to grasp. In all other aspects, divorce is about cutting the ties to the ex-spouse. You are dividing property and debt and making one spouse responsible after the entry of the judgment. However, children are not divided by a judgment of divorce and the communication to co-parent the Divorce does not make communicating with the spouse any easier. 

In some cases, one party did not want the divorce, and may have been surprised by the filing. This party is slower to work through their feelings of the end of the relationship. Often times, the feelings bleed into the communication with the other spouse during and after the divorce proceedings. However, there are steps that you can take to keep the communication with your ex-spouse civil and open during and after the divorce proceedings. I have discussed the five most common that I see in my practice. 

First, realize that the relationship is no longer the same. Even if you still love your spouse, she no longer loves you. Keep any thoughts or feelings of love for your ex-spouse to yourself. These thoughts are not appropriate to share. However, if you think your spouse may be open to the idea of reconciliation, recognize that you had a role to play in the breakdown of the marriage. Examine what that role was and if it is possible to repair the damage done in the past to save a marriage. I have seen clients take this action and save their marriage. However, many of them required the assistance of marriage counselor to have a long-lasting impact to their relationship. 

Second, no matter what button your spouse pushes with what he says, do not react with hostility or anger. I have read many emails and text messages where it is clear that feelings of anger are still in play. One wrong word or something read out of context starts a barrage of hateful comments. Your children can read or soon will be reading. If your child found the text messages or emails, would your words demonstrate the type of person you want your children to be? If the answer is no, then sending the quick reply back is ill-advised. There is no requirement to quickly respond to every text or email from an ex-spouse. If his words set you off, have another person read the message. Do they read the same thing you have read? Listen to what they say about the message and then respond using the high road. There is no need to engage in a battle of slinging hurtful things, such as “I will take the kids from you” or “My children will never be with you again.” I have not even mentioned the use of profanity, but just do not use it.  

Third, if you cannot exchange the children without a verbal fight occurring, then agree to exchange the children at a public place halfway between homes. If your children are old enough to walk to the other parent’s home or car, allow them to walk without leaving your car. If you have to get out of the car to help get belongings together for the children, speak only to your children and say how much you love them. Remember to be polite in front of the children. If you cannot speak, just smile. 

Fourth, if your relationship and communication is almost impossible to keep civil, consider using a communication tool. There are many out there from Our Family Wizard to TwoHouses to AppClose. Some of the tools for parents to use charge an annual fee. Others, like AppClose, are free. Several will allow the addition of stepparents, attorneys, or court personnel. Most of the communication tools have additional features such a calendar for sharing schedules and appointments, expense reporting for medical reimbursements or messaging. The use of the communication tool may require a court order that both parties communicate using a particular program as the tools will only work if both parties are using the same one. 

Fifth, give the other parent time to respond. I have seen pages of texts or emails where one party inundates the other’s inbox with messages sent seconds if not minutes apart. This quick fury of messages often indicate that one party cannot wait for the other party to respond. As I read the barrage of messages that had been sent, I see the assumptions and accusations that have been made. As a third party reading the conversation outside of the heat of the moment, I can clearly see which part took the wrong action in the conversation and where it broke down. If I can see it, so will the judge or referee who has been assigned to the case. Text messages and emails sent between two parents can be used in court to prove how one parent is not following the court order. There is no way to prevent them from not being introduced and the words said in the heat of the moment can make a loving parent look controlling or selfish. If what you read makes your blood boil, B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Slow down the conversation and take five deep long breaths. Control your emotions and responses.  

Remember while a divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end a family. Divorce has changed the way your family lives and interacts. As a parent, it is your job to do what is best for your children. This may include shielding your children from the acrimony that parents have for one another.  If your ex-spouse continues to feed the hostility, contact our office for help. 

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.