When is an order to pay uninsured medical expenses effective?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

My question takes place after a modification. I am suppose to pay 50% of unpaid medical expenses. Does this start when the judge signed the papers? Also, does this include current treatments the child is going through if they started months before the judge signed the modification papers?


Most orders will set an effective date from which the order governs.  Additionally, most orders can only be prospective from the date that the issue was brought to court.  However, each state has its own standards and rules.  One of the exceptions to this rule are expenses related to the birth of the child.  I do not practice in Oregon, so I cannot advise you on the specific statutes that may affect your case.

If it is not specifically stated, then most likely, the order requiring you to pay 50% of all uninsured medical expenses starts from the date of the hearing when the judge made the order, even if the order is signed and dated at a later date.  From that hearing date on, you are responsible for half of the uninsured expenses incurred, based on the date that the expenses were incurred.

If the child had already been receiving treatments, and those treatments were at issue during this modification, the court is likely to have addressed them in some way.  If the court is silent as to these treatments, I expect that the order is only prospective.  While the court may have the authority to require you to pay half of the expenses for the past X amount of months, the order would need to be clear as to when your responsibility began.

You mention that this order is the result of a modification.  It is a possibility that the effective date would be the date of the original order that is now being modified.  I have seen courts do this when equity requires, if they are allowed by statute.  Most divorce and paternity judgments include orders as to medical expenses, with the default provision being that parents split equally the uninsured expenses.  For example, if no orders on medical expenses were included in your judgment, then the modification may date back to that original judgment date.

Exactly when your responsibility began is dependent on the specific orders in your case and the laws in your jurisdiction.  I do not practice in Oregon, so I cannot inform you as to the state’s specific laws.  I recommend that you contact a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to discuss your case.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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