Child Custody Laws: Splitting Medical Costs

advice on divorceQuestion:

Do child custody laws allow for me to have my ex-wife reimburse me for medical expenses?

We share joint legal custody, and have a signed, notarized contract agreeing to split all expenses incurred.

However, my ex is now saying she does not want to pay her half for the cost of our daughter’s braces.

How can I get our contract enforced so that she has to pay me her portion of the costs for braces?

Answer:

This answer only includes general divorce help for men since I am only licensed to practice in Oklahoma and am thus unable to provide any advice on child custody laws in your state.

Generally, joint legal custody refers to an arrangement whereby both parents share responsibility for and authority over the child at all times. Under joint legal custody, the parties share and must cooperate in making decisions which effect the child.

Essentially, this means that decisions like what school the child will attend, what sort of religious upbringing the child will have, etc., must be made by the parents together. In your case, the decision to have your daughter’s braces put on should likely have been a joint decision.

If the contract you signed regarding your splitting of all costs was made part of a court order, and if you and your wife made the decision to get your daughter’s braces together, and now she’s refusing to pay the half she owes pursuant to a court order, you can file for contempt.

In a contempt proceeding, the court will hear evidence concerning your wife’s alleged violation of the court order and, if you prevail, the court can make her pay her half, plus, in some states, your attorney fees and costs for having to involve the court.

This does not only apply to the costs for the braces, but all other costs you two agreed to split that she is not paying now.

On the other hand, if you had your daughter’s braces put on unilaterally without consulting and cooperating with your wife to come to the decision, then she may have the same recourse against you. She could claim that you violated the court order by not consulting with her before making a significant and costly decision concerning your daughter first.

If the document you both signed was not made a part of a court order, you may still have a claim against her for breach of contract. Breach of contract is a civil cause of action that, in most cases, falls outside the realm of family law.

Generally, in a breach of contract suit, you have to show that a valid contract exists, that the contract placed a duty on your wife to pay, that she failed to pay, and that you have suffered damages as a result.

If you are successful, you will likely be able to recover what you’re owed, and in some cases, your attorney fees and court costs as well.

Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion of fathers rights and legal advice on divorce, I urge you to contact a family law attorney.

To set up an appointment with a Cordell & Cordell mens divorce attorney, including Christian D. Barnard, an Associate Attorney in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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