Q. I have been divorced for twenty five years. I moved to North Carolina when our children were 1 and 3. Admittedly I do not have the best relationship with them because I had limited opportunity to see them. My Ex has not helped the relationship and has bad mouthed me regularly over the years. I got remarried two years ago and both of my kids refused to come to my wedding.
Both of my older children are emancipated – working full time jobs and my son is even married. I no longer pay child support for either child. I assumed I was done financially supporting them.
I changed jobs in September and only insured myself and my current wife. While my daughter is 25 for another 7 months and still technically eligible for coverage on my plan until she is 26, I didn’t think I had an obligation to cover her, nor did it even cross my mind that she was still on my old plan. I got a nasty letter from my Ex threatening to sue me for uninsured medical expenses my daughter has incurred for various physical therapy appointments and depression medication which is now not being covered.
Can my Ex really sue me for this?
A. Typically the language in a separation agreement requires coverage for the children until the time of their emancipation. I do not know if your divorce ended in an agreement or a trial but it would be unusual for you to be obligated to continue to cover your daughter until she is 26. The outer limits of a child support obligation is 23 years so typically people define emancipation to max out at age 23.
If your divorce ended in a judgment after a trial, the only way a judge would have ordered you to provide health insurance until your daughter is 26 is if there was a specific request made during that trial. If you do not remember any such request being made, chances are it wasn’t. The best way to assure yourself of your obligations is to re-read your divorce agreement or judgment.
Assuming the document does not require you to pay until she is 26, you are free and clear. To the extent you kept her covered until she was 25 was just an added benefit to her and evidence that, despite the bad relationship, you do care for her.
Furthermore, given her age and emancipation, it is not your Ex who would have standing to sue you – it is your daughter. And chances are she has no interest in doing this. Instead of getting angry over the unfair accusations leveled by your Ex, call your daughter. This may be the perfect opportunity to build a bridge by pointing out you have helped for two years longer than you had to and by now offering to help her with uninsured bills.