There is a great concern about medical coverage today. This is not
surprising with the skyrocketing premiums of medical insurances and
increasing deductibles and co-pays.
For these reasons and many others, medical insurances and healthcare
expenses should be given serious consideration when settling your Rhode
Island Divorce or if you are involved in a Rhode Island Family Court
matter involving the establishment of healthcare related provisions.
The Todd & Liz Story - An Illustrative Example of What Could Happen:
Todd and Liz have been living in Cumberland, Rhode Island for six
(6) years. They have been growing apart steadily since the day they
got married and have three (3) minor children. They mutually decide to
get a divorce. They are amicable and civil about it and come to an
agreement that addresses splitting their assets, and debts, and also
provides for their children's needs.
In their Rhode Island Divorce both Todd and Liz each had their own
attorneys and were pleased with the representation they received. When
the divorce was finalized, Todd was awarded placement of the minor
children by agreement because he has a good, longstanding income to
support himself and the children and Liz felt it was best for Todd to
buy out her share of the house to allow their children to remain stable
by staying in their existing home. They both felt the divorce would be
hard enough for the children.
Several years later two of the children visit with their mother and
they have braces. Liz wasn't consulted by Todd about the braces, who
would provide them, why they needed them or what it might cost. Todd
tells Liz she has to pay him $4,000 for 1/2 the cost of the braces.
Liz isn't given a bill and is surprised that she has to pay for braces
and wasn't even consulted about them. Liz looks at her Final Judgment
Paragraph 6 reads,
Husband and wife shall each be responsible for one-half of all costs for the medical and dental expenses of the minor children.
Liz does not find anything else in her Final Judgment stating that she has to pay for one-half of any orthodontic expenses.
Liz calls a local dentist and asks him if orthodontic is the same as
dental. The dentist assures her that they require different degrees
and are two separate areas of medicine dealing with teeth so they
shouldn't be considered the same. Liz has a boyfriend Tom who is
concerned because Liz is so upset. Tom has dental insurance and calls
Blue Cross Dental to see if it covered braces. Blue Cross confirms for
Tom that dental coverage does not cover orthodontia because it is not
considered a dental expense. Tom decides to call Delta Dental of Rhode
Island and asks them if their plan would cover children's braces.
Delta Dental tells Tom that dental plans do not cover braces because
orthodontia is not dental because it could not be performed by a
dentist and only work performed by a dentist or dental hygenist is
When Liz divorced Todd she said she had no problem with Paragraph 6
because she believed "dental" meant the "services performed by
dentists". Liz and Todd were divorced during a nominal proceeding in
which all the terms were reached by agreement to by the parties. Yet
Liz never believed that dental included braces otherwise she would not
have agreed to it.
Liz does not pay for the braces and Todd takes her to court by
filing a Motion to Adjudge in Willful Contempt asking that she pay the
entire bill in full plus other medical expenses that Liz is unaware
The matter goes to a hearing before the court. The court does not
find Liz in Willful Contempt but orders Todd to produce the bills for
the braces and the medical expenses as well as the payments he made on
them. The judge also orders Liz to pay 1/2 of the braces and medical
expenses that Todd can produce the bills and proof that he paid the
bills for the minor children.
The court makes a finding that in Paragraph 6 Liz was ordered to pay
one-half of dental expenses for the minor children and that braces and
orthodontia fall are "dental" and though she is not in contempt because
she did not realize it, she is being ordered to pay it because it falls
within the court's order in Paragraph 6.
It is important to realize the significance of medical provisions.
This entire example revolved around one word, namely "dental." Be
specific on your medical provisions. It could cost you thousands of
dollars in payments, costs, interest, attorneys' fees and an award of
fees to opposing counsel if the court believes your defense to the
payments was unreasonable.
1) How important would it be for Liz to know that she might not be
ordered to pay these amounts (over $4,000) if Paragraph 6 of her Final
Judgment Divorce ended with ", except orthodontia"?
2) How important would it be to you if you were in the same situation?
3) Would it make any difference to you if you knew that the Rhode
Island Family court judge in the courtroom across the hall had
addressed the same issue and ruled that "dental" and "orthodontia" are
separate from one another and that braces didn't have to be paid where
the word "dental" was used in the Final Judgment of Divorce?
4) Would you be upset at your attorney for not making the agreement clearer?
5) Would you be upset at your attorney if you knew that what happened in Question #3 was true?
Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI 02910
Phone: (401) 354-2369
Attorney Pearsall's practice is focused almost exclusively in the areas of Divorce and Family law.
CALL (401) 354-2369 now to schedule for your low-cost, no obligation legal consultation!
NOTE: The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue. This site is based on Rhode Island and is presented for the convenience of the internet public.
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