Is an ex-spouse liable for paying all of their children’s medicalbills if the divorce decree states thatsuch expensessare to be shared equally?

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Is an ex-spouse liable for paying all of their children’s medicalbills if the divorce decree states thatsuch expensessare to be shared equally?

My husband was contacted by a collection agency for unpaid medical bills for his dependent children. The children live with their mother and these doctor visits were from 2005-2008. Apparently she never paid the doctor but never informed my husband of the balances either. Their divorce agreement states they are to equally split any medical expenses. Is my husband obligated to pay the whole amount or only his 50%? We have no idea if they’ve ever contacted his ex for payment and/or why it took the collection agency so long to contact him.

Asked on September 18, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Contracts, settlements, court judgments, and divorce agreements only bind the parties to them--in this case, you husband and his ex-wife. They do not bind creditors, such as medical care providers or their collection agencies. The creditors may look to either or both parents for medical costs; then how the parents allocate or split those costs between them is governed by the divorce agreement. So the creditors, who were not party to that agreement, can try to collect  it all from your husband; your husband in turn can look to enforce the agreement against his ex-wife and collect the appropriate share from her. So his recourse, under the agreement, is against the children's mother, not directly against the creditors, unfortunately.


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