Single parents: custody & expense reimbursements
Medical crisis can often lead to custody issues if parents are separated. These issues are different if a parent faces the medical crisis or if a child faces the medical crisis. Many issues about child custody in Allegheny County can be answered by the Allegheny County Adult Family Court Manual.
When children face a medical crisis and the parents are separated, a trying time can be even harder. Often times custody schedules no longer work or parents do not agree on a course of treatment. It is important that these issues be brought to a court’s attention when there is a custody order and the parents are not in agreement. When the issue is a disagreement about the treatment for a child, the courts can step in and either make the decision or appoint one of the parents to have sole Legal Custody with regard to medical decisions. It is important parents work together to make these decisions whenever possible. If the issues become contentious some doctors may refuse to move forward without a court order or agreement from the parties. Also, doctors may request that a family find a new doctor if the doctor starts to get involved in a legal custody matter. When the medical crisis affects the physical custody schedule (i.e. where the child lives and stays) and the parents cannot agree to alter it, they must proceed through the court process. The Allegheny County Family Court process starts with the Generations Program with education and mediation and then continues to progress through the courts until a judge makes a determination. The courts encourage parents to make decisions about their children, but will step in when necessary. In cases of emergency, the court will hear arguments with limited notice to the other party. If you have a family law attorney, you should consult him/her. If not, you should look into the Allegheny County Family Court Pro Se Motions program which offers assistance to family law litigants without attorneys.
When the parents face the medical crisis, it may impair their ability to care for a child. Sometimes parents do not realize how their medical issues are affecting children or other aspects of their life. If a parent’s medical condition is affecting the safety of the child, this can be dealt with through the court system. Again, this should be discussed with an attorney, if you have one. If you do not have an attorney, you should consider the Allegheny County Family Court Pro Se Motions Program.
Many child support orders contain a provision for unreimbursed medical expenses. Unreimbursed medical expenses are out of pocket expenses not covered by an insurance policy such as a co-pay or deductible. You should look to the order to see how much each party is responsible for paying. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the support recipient must pay the first $250 of unreimbursed medical expenses per year per child, and then there is usually a percentage split for anything over and above the first $250 (i.e. father pays 70% and mother pays 30%).
If you receive the support, you must collect your receipts and be able to show them to the payor when you request reimbursement for the medical expenses. It is important that all expenses are submitted by March 31 of the year after they were incurred (i.e. March 31, 2012 for all expenses in 2011). If the payor refuses to pay, this can be enforced through the courts. There is a “Summary of Medical and/or Dental Bills” form in the Allegheny County Family Court Manual.
If you pay support, make sure that you receive documentation of the expenses and that you pay them timely. If you do not agree with the court, you can contest the expenses in a timely manner.