Can a Florida court order a parent to provide health insurance for a child?

Understanding Child Support and Health Insurance in Florida

In the state of Florida, the well-being of a child is of paramount importance, particularly when it comes to matters of divorce or parental separation. One crucial aspect that often arises in family law is whether a court can mandate a parent to provide health insurance for their child. The simple answer is yes, Florida courts do have the authority to require a parent to furnish health insurance coverage for their child as part of a child support order.

Florida Statute 61.13 outlines the provisions related to child support, which includes health insurance. The statute mandates that both parents contribute to their child's medical care. The cost of health insurance is typically factored into the calculation of child support payments. Courts will consider the cost of adding a child to a health insurance policy versus the cost of obtaining health insurance for the child.

In situations where one parent has access to a reasonable health insurance plan through employment or other means, the court may order that parent to include the child on their policy. If both parents have access to insurance, the court will decide based on the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as the comprehensiveness of coverage and geographic accessibility of healthcare providers.

Historically, courts have recognized the necessity of healthcare for children and have taken steps to ensure that a child does not suffer due to a lack of medical coverage post-divorce or separation. For example, in Tanner v. Tanner, a case from 1985, the Florida Court of Appeals upheld that requiring a parent to provide health insurance was within the court's discretion and aligned with Florida's public policy to safeguard children's health and welfare.

However, if neither parent has access to affordable health insurance, the court cannot force them to obtain coverage. In such cases, alternative arrangements such as direct payment for medical expenses may be ordered. Furthermore, if providing private health insurance would cause significant financial hardship for the parent, they may be exempt from this requirement at the court's discretion.

What Happens if a Parent Fails to Provide Ordered Health Insurance?

Failure to comply with a court order to provide health insurance can result in enforcement actions against the non-compliant parent. This could include contempt of court proceedings or garnishment of wages to pay for healthcare costs incurred for the child.

In summary, Florida courts prioritize a child's need for healthcare and can indeed order a parent to provide health insurance as part of their financial obligations towards their child. Parents facing such legal determinations are advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide them through this complex process and help protect their rights and interests.