The issue of unreimbursed medical expenses is common among many clients. It will always be an issue in a SAPCR (Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship) where most of the time an obligor is ordered to reimburse incurred out-of-pocket medical expenses to the obligee. For example, a couple divorces and pursuant to their divorce decree, each parent is now responsible for payment of fifty percent of the children’s medical expenses that are not covered by insurance. These unreimbursed medical expenses can include co-pays, doctor’s visits, prescriptions, surgery costs, etc. If a parent incurring a health-care expense on behalf of the child seeks reimbursement, s/he typically has thirty days to provide notice to the other parent, unless the divorce decree stipulates a different time frame. Seeking reimbursement is not a simple process, and the parent incurring the expense has a substantial burden to follow the provisions in his/her decree outlining how to request reimbursement from the other party. Those provisions require that the parent submit to the other parent all forms, receipts, bills, and statements reflecting the uninsured portion of the medical expense in a timely manner as dictated by the divorce decree. But the problem is that many people do not keep track of all their documentation. Papers get thrown away or lost regularly. Or it’s possible that the parent simply neglected to follow the thirty-day notice period, and unless the decree contains certain exceptions that extend the time period, that parent is out of luck.
A case arising out of Dallas provides a helpful illustration of this issue. In Interest of M.S.C., 05-14-01581-CV, 2016 WL 929218, at *1 (Tex. App. ¾ Dallas March 1, 2016, no pet). In this case, the appellate court stated that the mother’s duty to reimburse the father for the child’s medical expenses arose only after the father timely sent her the documents reflecting the uninsured portion of the health care expenses. And because the father failed to do so within the ten days of receiving them, as specified by the decree, the mother’s obligation to reimburse the father was never triggered. Therefore, the court ruled that the father take nothing on his claim for unpaid medical child support expenses. In other instances, even if one parent does follow all of the provisions of the decree in asking for reimbursement, the other parent may still refuse to pay. In this case, a parent seeking reimbursement could hire an attorney and attempt to enforce the payment. However, enforcement may not always be worth it, especially when the overall cost of attorney’s fees in the matter would greatly exceed the amount of money that parent would receive if the court only awarded a portion of the fees for bringing the matter to the Court’s attention.
– Alex Bolton