Am I Expected To Pay Grandchild Support?

Question:

My husband just found out that his 17 year old daughter is pregnant and not sure who the father is. She will be 18 before the baby is born. He is required by his divorce papers to maintain health insurance on her, but no where was maternity coverage mentioned. He does not have it on her. He is also required to pay 1/2 of her medical expenses.

Is he required to pay for expenses after she turns 18 and is he required to pay for maternity expenses? She is supposed to graduate H.S. in May. He has only seen her for approx 5 hours since the end of July. Her mother is always finding reasons for her to not be able to come visit. This has been par for the course for the last 4 1/2 years. Mom has provided her with alcohol and opportunities to party for the last 4 years as well. Also, we have been paying for birth control pills for the last 4 years. What are our options on dealing with this?

 

Answer:

The terms of the divorce may require he provide health insurance and pay medical expenses through a certain age or “until emancipated.”  Whether the daughter’s pregnancy legally emancipates her or alters her status as your husband’s dependent is subject to the laws of your state.  However, if the judgment requires insurance and payment of medical expenses through a certain age, then your husband is probably obligated to do so until that time, unless he seeks a modification of the judgment in light of her pregnancy and possible emancipation, or seeks to shift liability to the father of her baby for those expenses.  The fact that the father of the baby is unknown or unavailable may preclude assessing the costs against him and leaving your husband responsible under the terms of the divorce.

Pregnancy is a medical condition and, unless the terms of the divorce or rulings in your jurisdiction would exclude the pregnancy either in general or under these circumstances, the health care of his daughter due to the pregnancy would be part of his obligation to provide insurance and cover medical expenses.  If your state insurance laws (if a private policy) or his employer’s insurance plan allows exclusion of maternity benefits and your husband elected to forego that coverage, he also may be liable for payment of the part of the health care expenses for his daughter that could have been covered by insurance.  Your husband needs to have a qualified attorney review his divorce orders, insurance plans, and the daughter’s circumstances to evaluate the issues.

The obligation to provide health insurance and pay medical expenses is independent of the visitation or extent of the relationship with the child, such that the lack of contact with his daughter would not normally alter his financial obligations.

Whether his obligations to continue health insurance and medical expense support past age 18 or graduation from high school will depend upon the laws of your state.  While the child support may end, your husband may be assessed “post-minor” support if available under the laws of your state which could continue his obligation.  Therefore, he should not assume his responsibilities will automatically terminate when the daughter turns 18 and needs to have this situation evaluated by a qualified attorney as well.

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