Who Pays For Braces If I Am Divorced?

Who Pays For Braces If I Am Divorced?

One of the most important concerns that the lawyers at our East Brunswick, New Jersey law firm handle when we have a case of divorcing parents is how they ensure that their children receive proper medical care. Everyone understands that children get sick and need to see a doctor. If asked, most parents would agree that their children need to see the dentist. Yet, one of the most common issues that arise for the attorneys at our New Jersey law firm after their divorce is whether their child needs braces and who has to pay for them. For those of us lucky enough to never have needed braces, television has taught us that they are obscenely expensive. But the bigger question for divorced parents is child support supposed to pay for braces?

The short answer is no, child support will not likely pay for all of the braces. Child support in New Jersey covers unreimbursed health care (including dental expenses) up to and including $250 per child per year. These are generally considered ordinary medical expenses, such as non-prescription drugs, co-pays or health care services, equipment and products. Said another way, the parent who receives child support will be responsible for the first $250.00 of these expenses per year per child.

It is fair to say child support will pay a portion of the costs toward braces, but $250 per year is unlikely to cover the entire costs for braces. This leads to the most important issue...

Who has to pay for the rest of the braces?

Generally, in New Jersey, parents will be responsible to pay for unreimbursed medical and dental expenses for their children. But before grabbing your checkbook, it is important to confirm that the braces are a reasonable and necessary medical expense. Said another way, if the child actually needs the braces and are not purely for vanity. While the child’s need for braces is important, a parent’s financial circumstances are less important to the Court. In my experience, most Courts find that if an Orthodontist is recommending braces for a child, the child should not be penalized for their parents’ financial concerns about obtaining braces even if it means some sacrifice on behalf of the parents.

What portion of braces and other medical expenses need to be paid by mom or dad will depend on 1) what is written in your divorce agreement or 2) the Court’s determination of your ability to pay. Because the Court will look at your divorce agreement first, it is critical that you have the advice of an attorney to ensure that you have protected yourself and your children. In some circumstances, the parents may agree to just split these expenses by each paying 50%. However, more often than not, if the Court is asked to make the decision, the Court will look at the parties’ gross income and one parent may find that they are responsible for a far greater share. Making sure that your divorce agreement or custody agreement is clear with the obligations of each party will ensure that you and your children are protected.

It is important to remember that Child Support is NOT the only money that your children will need throughout their lives. There are always expenses that arise beyond what the Child Support Guidelines consider. While this may seem unfair, it is simply impossible for everything to be included in child support calculations.
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