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 of Divorce.
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 considered dental.
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 of.
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?
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