The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act otherwise known as “Obamacare” begins to take full effect on January 1, 2014 when the individual mandate requiring every qualifying American to secure health insurance or pay a monetary penalty. Without debating the overall merits of Obamacare, I believe this individual mandate will affect Appling Countians in three basic ways: (1) Those who currently have no health insurance must purchase the same for themselves and their families or face a penalty ranging from $695 - $2,085 annually; (2) Those who are currently in the individual insurance market will see a significant rise in monthly premiums; and (3) Those who have major medical coverage through an employer may see a moderate rise in premiums and, in some limited circumstances, may lose their coverage altogether.
You’re curious as to how this affects child support? I’m glad you asked. The child support calculation that is performed as a part of any divorce that involves children can include health insurance premiums paid by either parent. This generally means that a non-custodial parent paying child support will get a credit for whatever amount he or she pays for health insurance premiums for the children that are subject of the child support order. Conversely, if the custodial parent is paying any health insurance premiums for the children he or she will get a credit on the calculation causing the non-custodial parent’s child support payment to increase.
In the past, many of the divorce decrees, etc. have not addressed health insurance premiums because the children were uninsured and neither party was required to provide health insurance. After Obamacare, these custodial parents will be required to provide insurance for their children. This is likely to be a major new expense that will likely cause a change in the financial status of the custodial parent. Those individuals that fall into the second category listed above will also experience a major increase in premiums, if they are in the individual market, that would certainly affect a change in financial status on the parent paying the health insurance premium. Parents falling into the last category who experience an increase in the employer-provided plans or lose coverage altogether would undoubtedly see a change in financial status as a result of the new law.
There is good news, however. Child support may be modified upon a showing of a change in financial status or income of either former spouse. This means that if you are a non-custodial parent currently paying child support your obligation may be decreased if the health insurance you are currently providing increases or if your are forced to pay for health insurance premiums under the new law. This also means that if you are a non-custodial parent and you are providing health insurance or will be under the new law, the child support payment you receive may increase as a reflection of the increase in costs of health insurance.
The process for modification can be complicated and depends on many factors. Moreover, this is a fairly new concept so it is important that you consult an attorney familiar with this type of domestic litigation.
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