One issue with which parents often struggle is how to give notice to the other parent of unreimbursed medical expenses for the parties’ children. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue in an unpublished decision.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines require the parent seeking reimbursement from the other parent to give notice to the other parent within 180 days of incurring the expense. The notice need not be in writing and need not include a receipt, unless the other parent asks for it.
The parties in the appellate case operated under these rules until the court entered a modification order requiring the parent seeking reimbursement from the other parent to give notice in writing within 30 days of treatment and to provide a receipt or invoice.
The appellate court applied the standard in the guidelines to the medical claims that the mother incurred prior to the modification order and applied the modified standard to all claims incurred after the modification order. Also, the court allowed most of the mother’s claims, even the claims for which she could supply no written demand and for which the father claimed that the mother had made no verbal demand, because the court found the mother to be more credible.
The bottom line is that the Guidelines enact one standard for demanding reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical costs, but the court may make its own procedure in any given case. Therefore, parents should read their court orders and make their demands accordingly. Furthermore, demands should always be in writing and include a receipt, even if the court’s order does not require it. As I often tell my clients, the other party can lie about what you said or did not say, but they cannot lie about what you wrote. Parents should also include the receipt in order to take away from the other parent the argument that the demand did not include a receipt.
The court also made a few other holdings important for parents regarding uninsured medical expenses. First, the court ruled that the mother’s inability to pay a medical bill did not change the father’s obligation to pay his portion. The court ordered the father to pay his portion of the expense directly to the health care provider. Also, the father’s attendance at some of his children’s doctor’s appointments was not sufficient notice of the medical expense. The mother still had to give notice of her costs to the father.
Parents often give defective notice or present insufficient evidence to the court. An experienced family law attorney’s advice and/or help will often make the difference between failure to recover unreimbursed medical expenses and success. If you have to recover expenses from the other parent, Thomas A. Morton can help you.