Excluding Cost of Secondary Health Insurance in Child Support Challenged in Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Abney v. Pace

September 13, 2021 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother and Father are the divorced parents of Child. Father was ordered to pay child support of $1600 per month. Father was also ordered to maintain health insurance for Child.

Mother obtained from her employer a secondary health insurance policy for Child for $51.53 per month.

In a postdivorce modification of child support, Mother requested credit for the secondary health insurance premium she paid for Child’s benefit.

The proof showed that Father had consistently supplied health insurance for Child since the divorce, but the insurance company changed at some point.

Mother argued she was unaware Father was continuing to insure Child because Father had not provided her with the insurance card until shortly before trial. Because of this, Mother obtained health insurance for Child through her employment.

The trial court declined to give Mother a credit on the child-support worksheet for her secondary health insurance premium, finding that expense was not a “reasonable necessity or requirement” because Father insured Child as ordered.

Mother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines provide that the child’s portion of a health insurance premium should be included when calculating the child-support obligation “[i]f health insurance that provides for the healthcare needs of the child can be obtained by a parent at reasonable cost.”

The Court found no abuse of discretion in denying Mother credit for secondary health insurance not ordered:

In the original child-support order, Father was ordered to provide health insurance for Child, not Mother. Father provided the health insurance as ordered. Mother had another child and provided health insurance for both Child and the half-sibling. … Although arguing that she believes Father was not providing insurance as ordered, Mother acknowledged during trial that Father did carry health insurance for Child.

[T]he trial court declined to include a credit for Mother [for] the health insurance premium she had paid for Child. … The trial court found that this expense was not reasonable when Father consistently provided coverage as previously ordered by the court. … [W]e determine the relevant issue to be whether the expense of the insurance coverage procured by Mother for Child was an unreasonable cost in light of Father’s continued coverage for Child as found by the trial court. If such coverage was not a reasonable cost, there is no requirement that the health insurance premium be included in the child-support calculation, and as such, there would be no deviation from the presumptive child-support obligation.

The trial court found that because Father continuously provided health insurance for Child as ordered by the trial court, Mother’s decision to provide additional health insurance coverage [was not] “a reasonable necessity or requirement” and declined to provide Mother credit for the health insurance premium. [W]e hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when determining that the expense of Mother’s additional health insurance premium was not a reasonable cost because Father provided health insurance for Child as ordered.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

K.O.’s Comment: This is the first appellate opinion I’ve seen addressing this common issue.

Abney v. Pace (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, August 31, 2021).

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Excluding Cost of Secondary Health Insurance in Child Support Challenged in Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Abney v. Pace was last modified: September 5th, 2021 by K.O. Herston

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