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Advice on Medical Bills Responsibility


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Mark Cappel
UpdatedJun 4, 2009

The ex-wife of my husband ran up a lot of medical bills and wants my husband to pay them now. Can she legally do this?

Hi, The ex wife of my husband took the kids to the doctor, many times, and didn't say a word about it. She named him responsible for to pay the bill, and the doctors agreed with her and billed him without contact him, not before of the appointment or after. The divorce decree says they both share the medical bills, and he also must pay the insurance (he does). A debt collector is gonna sue my husband for to not pay those bills, but my question is: how can a doctor relay in the ex wife word just because? why is she not being sue and is enough with her word saying that she doesn't have any money.... Shouldn't a judge decide if she can or not pay her half of the debt?Which also means that the debt doesn't really belong to my husband, it could belong to both, maybe. But I consider that those doctors are not acting right....if the ex wife can send bills to my husband without he even been aware of....why is the child support for? she gets child support, and she received spouse suport for a long time....and at that time she didn't pay anything either! Last time we received a bill from a doctor I called the doctor back...and she didn't even turned in the insurance information, and I asked them why was my husband been billed for that visit and I told them that I read that the parent that takes the kid to the doctor is the primary debtor, and that parent is the one that should be collecting the rest of the money from the other parent, the doctor has no right to even try to collect money from other than the patient...let's see if you can help me now...I need help, please.

Your husband has several options available to him to help rectify this situation, though none are particularly easy or pleasant. Your husband may have grounds to file a lawsuit against his ex-wife for violation of the divorce decree, since he and his ex agreed that they would be equally responsible for their children's medical care. He also may have a cause of action against her since she claimed him as the responsible party when he was not the responsible party. Also, if she signed his name without his permission on the documents assigning him as the responsible party, he may have further civil claims against her. Your husband may be able to file a lawsuit against her proactively for violation of the divorce decree and any other claims he may have, which would hopefully result in a ruling against her ordering that she pay at least half of these medical bills. Alternatively, if one of the medical providers files a collection lawsuit against your husband, he may have grounds to name his ex-wife as a third-party defendant, which could result in a judgment against her in favor of the medical providers, allowing them to collect against her rather than against your husband.

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The Debt Coach offers non-nonsense information about your debt relief options, and will give you the pros, cons, and costs for each.

From your question, it sounds like several medical providers may be pursuing your husband for payment, in which case it may be better for him to take proactive action against his ex-wife to protect his interests in case these collectors decide to push forward with legal action against him. Regardless of what action he decides to take, I strongly encourage your husband to consult with an attorney licensed in your state to discuss the situation and to help you and him determine the best way to proceed. If your husband’s attorney recommends taking legal action, he should be able to explain the specific causes of action your husband can reasonably claim. Also, your attorney should be able to tell you whether or not taking legal action against your husband’s ex-wife makes financial sense, or if it would be better to simply seek a court order barring her from making similar claims in the future.

Your husband may decide, on the other hand, to simply pay these debts, and tell his ex-wife that if she ever does anything like this again, that he will sue her. I say this for a couple of reasons — first, it may cost more to sue her than to just pay these bills. Second, I presume that your husband’s children live with his ex-wife, and I doubt that he wants his children to be embroiled in the type of low-brow conflict that so often results from this type of familial dispute. Certainly, I think that your husband has the law on his side in this situation, and that he should consult with an attorney, but he should consider how any action on his part may affect his relationship with his ex-wife and potentially with his children.

I wish you and your husband the best of luck in resolving this dispute.

I hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.




CCindy Perry, May, 2019

Do we have to split the medical expenses of our child before the divorce was signed or the amendment of custody was done?

DDaniel Cohen, May, 2019

I can't give legal advice, as only an attorney can properly do so. Here are a couple of thoughts, with the understanding that I am not giving you legal advice.

I don't think there is a "have to." How responsibility is divided depends on a lot of factors including the income of the two parties and how marital assets are divided. 

The fact that you are asking these very legitimate questions indicates to me that you should speak with a lawyer.

PPaul Guyas, Apr, 2016

"I told them that I read that the parent that takes the kid to the doctor is the primary debtor" Where did you read that. I need that source. Thanks

BBetsalel Cohen, Apr, 2016

The quote you are referring to comes from the reader's question.

It is not clear where they received that information, and it is certainly not true in all situations. Each situation would depend on the family status and any legal documents. In addition, a medical provider could theoretically sue a parent, even if they are not responsible for the debt. For more information, I suggest that you read the article about doctrines of necessaries.

If you are facing a personal situation, then I suggest that you consult with a lawyer.

GGena, Mar, 2012
The ex-wife of my husband ran up a lot of medical bills and wants my husband to pay them now. Can she legally do this?It states they share equally in costs what insurence does not paid, also it states she is to consult with him before incurring any expenses which she has not done. She had insurance available to her that covered it 100% but refused to take his child to a different dentist. Will he be able to fight this because she was in violation of the decree.
BBill, Mar, 2012
I am reluctant to comment on a divorce decree I have not read. If the decree is structured as you suggest, then it is not reasonable for her to expect her ex-spouse to pay half without the other parent giving prior approval. Aside from the decree, it is simply rude for one parent to not inform the other of a child's expensive medical procedure in advance. On the other hand, if the procedure was an emergency, then a court would likely agree both parents should share the cost equally.
RRodney, Apr, 2011
I have been divorced for a 1 1/2 yrs.. My x-wife has full legal custody of our two children. We were divorced in Missouri. She just got a hold of me about two weeks ago. SHe told me that she wanted me to move back home to her and our children to be a family. I told her that I was not moving back home. She told me that if I did not move back home she would go to her attorney and have me arrseted for not paying my portion of the medical bills that she has acrued in the last 1 1/2.. I asked her why she had not sent me my portion of the medical bills and she told me that she sent me a envolope before the divorce was final that had some medical bills. I have lost that envolope that had the bills in it. My question is: I don't pay child support because we set it up that way in court. But I have to pay 50/50 on the unpaid medical expenses. I asked her the other day to send me copies of the medical bills that she wanted me to pay. She told me that she did not have to since I did not pay for the first medical bills she sent me before the divorce was final. She has to per the divorce decree send me the unpaid amount within 15 days of getting them. Can she send me to jail?She also told me that if I was to move back home she would not persue legal suite against me. What should I do.
BBill, Apr, 2011
I will not address the question of whether you should live with someone who is threatening to call the police if you do not do as she wishes. Not fulfilling the obligations agreed to in a divorce agreement is not a criminal offense, it is a civil matter, and if your ex-spouse calls the police they will explain that fact.

Consult with your divorce lawyer, who will call her lawyer, get the medical receipts for you, which you should pay immediately.
MMark Cappel, Jun, 2009
The ambulance company provided a service to you, so from the company's perspective you are responsible for paying for their services. The ambulance company is probably not aware of any insurance you may have, or who is paying for the costs resulting from the accident. Although it's unclear from your message, it appears as though your friend's vehicle insurance is paying for your medical bills that resulted from an accident in your friend's vehicle. If that is the case, I suggest you get the name of the insurance company, the address of the claim office for this particular claim, and the claim number, and send that information to the ambulance company with a letter explaining the circumstances. Include a copy of the bill the ambulance company sent you so the accounting department has a complete and clear picture of who is responsible for your bill.
RRachel, Jun, 2009
I was in an accident when i was still in high school and had to go to the hospital. Now, i was riding with my friend and when we got to the hospital, her insurance was supposed to cover it. I did give my name to the administration when they checked me but i am still being billed for the ambulamce. I live in Chicago, Illinois. And im wondering if I'm responsible for the amnulance bill.