Estranged Spouses and Medical Expenses (High Deductible Plan)

Updated on February 11, 2016
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
7 answers

Quick background: My husband (and step-daughter, now 18) moved into an apartment 5 months ago and my 3 sons and I are in our family home. We have consulted with attorneys but haven't moved forward with separation/divorce in court due mostly to issues with not being able to re-fi the house. In our discussions with attorneys and our counselor, we agreed that based on child support guidelines in our state (whether or not it is determined that I have primary custody or we have joint custody) that he would most likely be ordered to pay me around $1000 a month, which would cover roughly half of our health/dental and half of childcare for our younger sons, all of which I currently pay.

Health insurance is a high-deductible plan ($3500) with a health savings account. I fund both the HSA (up to the deductible plus a little leftover to cover out-of-pocket dental expenses) and pay all of the premiums for medical and dental. So far, he has paid me nothing towards these expenses. Zip, zilch, zero, nada, for almost 6 months.

My SD incurred several hundred dollars in medical expenses last month and my husband is schedule for hernia surgery this week. He's freaking out over the fact that because the deductible hasn't been met, he'll be billed for everything up to the deductible and 20% of the remainder. I said that given that he hasn't been paying me, I'm not inclined to use the HSA to cover these expenses and offered that if started paying me his half of the premium and HSA contribution, I would be willing to pay the deductible portion of the bills out of the HSA so that essentially, each of us is paying $1750 of the deductible expenses for the year.

He's now flipping out over this and planning on canceling his surgery because he claims he can't afford to pay me for his portion of the monthly expenses, can't pay the medical bills and doesn't want these expenses hanging over his head, that I'm screwing him out of medical care, being unfair, etc.

For anyone who has been in this situation of providing health care for an ex spouse, how do you handle things like high deductibles, etc?

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So What Happened?

Thanks, I always appreciate getting things to think about here! To elaborate on the separation issue, Massachusetts doesn't legally recognize separations. We could create a separation agreement and file it with court but both parties have to agree to the terms (they're not adjudicated) and he won't sign off on one. A complaint for separate support could be filed as an interim step but I was hoping to keep costs down by filing all at once when we are ready (and without the house question settled, he'd fight that). The house situation can't be left unsettled because it's a negative equity situation and he wants to let the house go into foreclosure. Hopefully I'll have a clear answer on that in the next few months but in the interim, looks like it's time to file at least something.

More Answers


answers from St. Louis on

Until you are divorced all assets are marital, all debts are marital. If he gets the surgery you are on the hook for half the debt anyway so why is this your hill to die on. If you divorced right now he would get half that HSA balance. If you divorce after he has the surgery you would get half that cost and half the HSA.

Go forward with the divorce, put a reasonable period of time to refinance the home. Ours was 6 months because there was no reason a refinance would be difficult but there is no reason it has to be limited to 6 months, I have heard of terms as long as 5 years. There is no upside to delaying severing your assets just because the refinance may take longer than normal and until you do he can rack up all the bills he wants and you will be stuck with half. I am just saying this because right now you see that you are the bigger revenue generator, at some point he is going to figure out he can be the bigger bill generator. Divorce before he figures that out.

Some of the answers prompted me to say, my ex wanted to cut me off his insurance when we separated. He didn't want to pay a penny in support, nothing. The courts abused him because of this. They don't like when spouses try to remove the other from things they have always paid for. I am not saying that is the case here but in my case it made my ex seem petty and controlling to the judge. I was a stay at home mom so very different from this but my ex always carried the insurance so when he tried to remove me things got ugly.

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answers from Washington DC on

So, basically, you have been paying everything and now he's upset that he needs to use it but that there is a deductible? It sounds to me like he needs to get his own insurance for himself and SD. Do you live in the same home still? I ask because if he's not living there, couldn't you at least have a legal separation agreement that would cover these issues?

On the surface, it sounds to me like he didn't contribute to the coverage as agreed so he doesn't get the benefit of your HSA, which could easily pay for the children's medical needs instead. His failure to plan is not now your emergency. What is being unfair is that he has failed to provide for your children the agreed-upon $6000 for the last 6 months, right? Was that in writing? You should also talk to the insurance company to make sure he can't tap into the HSA without your permission.

I might feel differently if it were life and death, but it doesn't sound like that is the case.

You should also call your lawyer.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't know if this will apply to you.

My close friend decided to divorce her substance addicted, gambling addict husband. He did not want the divorce. They had no children. She was the financial provider and insurance carrier. While they 'negotiated' their divorce, he suddenly came up with these medical procedures he needed and then got them while still covered by her insurance (and her pocketbook). She gave in and paid because he would not agree to any of the other terms of their divorce until she paid for all these procedures. He really, really, wore her down with these because she just wanted to be free of him.

So I guess my point is like what Julie S. said...get moving on that divorce because it may get messier then it is now.

I hope it doesn't cause it's obvious that you are so trying to do the right thing.

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answers from San Francisco on

If he wants to cancel, so be it. But I would be very careful if he doesn't. Even though you are not living together, there is no legal separation which makes you equally responsible for all bills incurred. So, he could have the surgery and then wait you out as far as paying the out-of-pocket costs. When push comes to shove, he probably knows you will pay the bills because basically you have no other choice, except to let it go to collection.

I REALLY encourage you to at least do a legal separation so you won't be held financial hostage.

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answers from Washington DC on

i have no patience for men who don't help support their kids, and less patience than the little i have for your ex who is a major whiny PITA.
sorry about his stupid hernia, but since he's not willing to meet you even a little way in, it's not your problem.
not that it helps much- he's still very much your problem in too many ways.
i sure hope you can move forward with the divorce soon and get all this down in paper and legal.
do NOT use your self-funded HSA to pay for his surgery. no. no.
ETA after reading the other responses i realize they're right- since you're still legally married with no separation agreement or any legal papers, you're still on the hook for all of your schmuck's bills.
i honestly don't know what to do about the HSA situation. but please, please divorce him ASAP.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Well, I guess this is why you get divorced and not separated. You cover yourself on a plan with the kids and he covers himself alone. Done. When you try to be all nicey-nicey then you get screwed.

My ex owes me 34k in back child support. A couple weeks ago I filed with the court an "Order to Enforce Child Support". They bumped him from $800 per month to $1225 to try to get caught up. He still has 5 years of child support to pay. It comes out directly from his check, into the clearinghouse then into my bank account. He also pays for the kids on his health insurance.

Sell the house, re-calculate the child support showing YOU paying for health insurance and then he will have to pay more to make up for that. There should be a sheet to use for calculation.

Trust me when I tell you that I only have him paying for the insurance for the kids because he works for a bank and has group coverage. My husband and I are business owners and pay $750 per month for just the 2 of us so it would be even more to cover the kids. But as much as my ex gets laid off and doesn't pay, it would be worth it just for peace of mind to just pay it myself.

Something to think about at least. But I think you need to consider separating EVERYTHING. It's very clear that way. File something so it's legal and in black and white so he doesn't have an option to not pay. That way it only affects him and not you or the kids. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Well, he's your husband, not your ex-spouse. That's where you're confusing things. IF he was actually your ex this would all be in the divorce papers. It sounds like you have an excellent job and are a good provider. I suggest he can get along without his hernia surgery and his daughter is an adult, you should drop her from the plan if your attorney says that's okay. If she even acted nice towards you and tried to make things work it would have been different but she didn't. She's an adult, he's moved out, seems like he could sue you for depriving him of health care or something but that's a question for your attorney.

I'd let them do without. Matter of fact I'd have probably just left him off the insurance this time but since he's still your husband he might be able to fight that. I just don't know.

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