There is a strong preference in New Jersey for parents to share joint legal custody of their children. Joint legal custody is where the parties agree to consult with each other on major decisions affecting the welfare of the children. One of the parents is then designated as the Parent of Primary Residence and the other is the Parent of Alternate residence.
If the parties share joint legal custody of a child, their Property Settlement Agreement will usually address the issue of reimbursement of uncovered medical expenses. The Parent of Primary Residence typically is responsible for the first $250.00 of uncovered medical expenses per child per year. Thereafter, the Parent of Alternate Residence will be required to be responsible for a portion of the uncovered medical expenses. However, because the parties share joint legal custody of the children, the parents are required to consult with each other regarding decisions, including medical treatment.
A recent New Jersey Appellate Division case addressed the issue of whether a custodial mother waived medical reimbursement for the children when she failed to consult the noncustodial father in advance of the medical treatment. The Appellate Division held that the right to receive reimbursement of medical expenses is not subject to waiver by the custodial parent. Like child support, the right to receive reimbursement of uncovered medical expenses belongs to the children. Thus, the noncustodial parent must still reimburse a portion of uncovered medical expenses even if they were not consulted regarding the treatment. However, the Court did acknowledge that the noncustodial parent retains the right to question the custodial parent regarding the reasonableness of the medical expense.
The Court outlined specific factors to assist them in determining the reasonableness of a medical expense. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you how to proceed with regard to the reasonableness of medical expenses.