3 Key Facets to Managing Children's Medical Care As Co-Parents After Divorce

Doctor talks to young boy about his health.

As many of us know, healthcare can be extremely complicated. And after a divorce or separation, co-parents often find that it may become even more so with the added intricacies of organizing their children's healthcare from two separate households. 

Although dealing with healthcare topics can feel tortuous, co-parents are better off if they address issues proactively and with a clear system in mind. It is crucial that parents handle medical care decisions for their children with attention and clarity to ensure that they continue to receive the treatment they need.

While every family's situation will be slightly different, there are 3 common aspects of children's healthcare that all co-parents should know how to handle. 

Managing health insurance

When parents divorce, they must decide who will provide their children with health insurance.

If you and your co-parent are provided with group coverage through your employers, your child may be able to be listed on each of your plans. One plan would be assigned as the "primary" plan, and the other as the "secondary" plan which would cover expenses not covered by the other plan.

If only one parent provides health insurance for the children, that may have an effect on child support obligations. Whether it does have an effect depends largely on if the insurance is being provided by the parent receiving or paying support. Child support calculations vary by state, so be sure to consult a legal professional in your area to determine how your child's health insurance could affect your child support obligations.

In a situation where a child is not covered by a plan provided by either parents' employer, separate insurance must be obtained for the child, and parents will likely both be responsible for the costs involved. If finances are a serious worry, there are options for parents who cannot afford health insurance for their children such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Keep in mind that many factors specific to your family situation will affect the outcome of your child's health insurance plan such as the laws of your state, your child's age, etc. Be sure to speak with your attorney about this if you have any questions or concerns about the outcome of this issue. 

Co-pays and out of pocket medical expenses

As part of managing a child's medical care after divorce, a decision is typically made about how co-pays and other out of pocket medical costs will be handled. In most cases, parents will split these costs equally or in some other ratio that is determined. One parent, however, will typically have to pay that fee up front when it is due, and the other parent will reimburse their portion to the parent who paid.

In this situation, parents need a solid method of reimbursement to ensure that payments are made and thoroughly documented each time.

As part of the OurFamilyWizard Expense Log, many parents use OFWpay™ to send and receive electronic payments that are documented within the website. Using this system makes it easy for parents to document these expenses and payments, as well as see what payments are still due. 

Parents can get this information at a glance by looking at their expense register. And when more detailed reports are needed, they can be generated and print them for no extra cost. 

Caring for your child at home

Many children have particular health concerns that parents need to be mindful of and for which treatment must be coordinated between homes. When you and your co-parent were living together, you may have had a solid handle on care procedures for your child. Now, both you and your co-parent must be individually mindful of your child's health concerns.

Keep each other informed of all relevant medical details concerning your child. This includes past conditions as well as any upcoming appointments, incidents that take place, etc. Be sure that both of your homes are stocked with the particular medications, equipment, foods, and other supplies that your child will need when they are staying with either of you.

Have your child's health insurance information, doctor's contact information, and other emergency contact details on hand in both homes. Co-parents on OurFamilyWizard can use the Info Bank to accomplish this task easily and without fuss.

Also, if you and your co-parent have joint legal custody, it may be a good idea to inform your child's doctor and other healthcare providers of your divorce and provide them with permission to communicate with both of you about your child's medical care.

Finally, if you and your co-parent are going to continue making joint decisions about your child's medical care, do so. Don't keep each other in the dark about decisions or make big choices without involving the other parent. Have a plan in place for how you will communicate and handle big healthcare choices for your child.

Managing a child's medical care after divorce is a crucial task that must be handled by both parents responsibly. During the divorce, make the best possible choice concerning your child's health insurance, making sure to speak to a professional about this for guidance. Have a plan for how you will handle out of pocket medical expenses like co-pays, and agree on a method of reimbursement for these costs.

Finally, be mindful of having everything you need on hand when you are each caring for your child at home. Understanding these three key topics will help your child remain healthy into the future.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.