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We have a parenting plan that designates all health decisions as "jointly made." The other parent previously had our child on their employer insurance plan. They just changed jobs and hence insurance plans, and simply informed me that our child will be on a new plan, far more costly than the last, and that I am obligated to pay my share of the increased premium cost as an "uninsured medical expense" that we are indeed obligated to share under our parenting plan.

I'm mostly concerned with whether the other parent can make this decision without consultation/agreement. They maintain that since they already have child on their insurance, they can make this change without consultation, and that "joint decision making" on health issues only applies to health care and not insurance.

I simply maintain that when a significant change or action takes place related to health, the decision needs to be jointly made.

Jurisdiction is Washington State.

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    Jurisdiction? The answer will be completely different in (eg) most states of the USA and Germany. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 4 '17 at 14:03
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    Jurisdiction is in Washington State – Max Savishinsky Oct 5 '17 at 14:46
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    It is likely that there is no option to stay on the old plan without keeping the old job. Are you expecting to be able to force them to stay at the old job to keep the old insurance? What decision do you contest exactly? – Matt Oct 6 '17 at 4:06
  • I simply want to contest their right to make a unilateral decision about what health insurance plan our child will have since this change in job and coverage is happening. I maintain that the other parent doesn't have the right to decide on their own what to do in terms of health coverage since the parenting plan designates health care as an item for joint decision-making. She is signing the child up for a new plan under new employer without my input/approval, and simply sending me the bill for the much higher premium. – Max Savishinsky Oct 7 '17 at 11:05
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It isn't obvious on the face of it whether health decisions means "treatment decisions in non-emergency situations" or also includes choices of health insurance plans.

Both of these could be fair readings of the language and it wouldn't be unusual for the relevant documents to simply be ambiguous on this point.

This would depend to some extent on whether there was separate language in the Separation Agreement or decree addressing health insurance and/or out of pocket health care costs separately from "health decisions." The reading that health insurance is different from health decisions is somewhat favored by the fact that the health insurance decision is incident to employment and may be beyond the employee's control.

Certainly, the better choice for the newly employed spouse would have been to confer about the health insurance choice (which may have been made thoughtlessly in connection with a big stack of new hire paperwork without realizing that this could be covered by the joint "health decisions" language). But, in the absence of more clear language and context, it is hard to tell if this conferral was legally required. The way that specific legal phrases in agreements are applied is often highly context specific.

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Regardless of what state you are in, joint custody means both parents share expenses, responsibilities, and hardships.

I understand you were not informed about the change of health plans since the last coverage was under the other parent employer insurance. In that case, I am assuming that he was making the full monthly premium to his/her employer without your input. Some employers charge $20 to $150 every month plus co-payments. If you were not contributing to this plan then, his/her decision to not inform you about changing the insurance plan would most probably be justified unless you were making contributions.

By doing so, if you were not making the contributions in the health premiums, co-payments and or any medical bills under the current situation then I am assuming that he is most likely going to continue the payment arrangement like before, unless he needs your input.

If you were making contributions, you have the right to have a discussion with the other parent regarding the insurance. A lot of insurance companies offer low-cost affordable health insurance options for low-income parents. If you or the other spouse (whoever has low-income) can use the Medicaid program and ensure the child that way. Otherwise, you can research by contacting health insurance providers to see who would offer the most cost-effective plan and then try to change the insurance to what you both can afford. Work with the other parent since both of you will be in the relationship to take care of the child until the child turns 18 or 21 depending on your state.

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  • Nij, thanks for proofreading and editing. – SMS Attorneys LTD Nov 6 '17 at 12:38
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    "If you were making contributions, you have the right to have a discussion with the other parent regarding the insurance." This is frequently not true. "If you were not contributing to this plan then, his/her decision to not inform you about changing the insurance plan would most probably be justified unless you were making contributions." This is irrelevant to the legal obligations of the parties. – ohwilleke Nov 10 '17 at 9:05

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