The Divorce Decree and Kids' Medical Debts

One situation that seems to come up a fair amount is allocation of the debts after the divorce. Many of my creditor clients have had a debtor attempt to defend against collection efforts by advising the creditor that the divorce decree said they did not have to pay. Typically a divorce decree simply is not binding on the third party creditor. The creditor was not a party to the case, so the divorce court does not have the authority to alter the creditor’s rights one way or another. As between the creditor and the debtor, the creditor’s right to collect remains the same before and after the divorce decree.

Medical debts for the children is very often where this situation crops up. Indiana courts have held that parents are responsible for the well-being of their child and that it is fundamental that a parent provide medical care for a child. A parent’s duty to provide support for his or her minor child includes the provision of reasonable and necessary medical services. (See Schmidt v. Mutual Hospital Services, Inc. and St. Mary’s Medical Center Inc. v. Bromm). That creates the underlying presumption that either or both of the child’s parents are legally obligated to pay the bill and that the medical provider can pursue one or both of them. The divorce decree would not typically alter that presumption. Instead, if Dad has been ordered to pay the medical bill and Mom ends up paying that bill, the divorce decree gives Mom the ability to pursue Dad for reimbursement. It does not typically give Mom the ability to defend against collection efforts by the medical provider.

Do you need help collecting a medical debt in Tippecanoe County or the surrounding counties? Contact us.