Recent Changes to the Law Relating to Child Support and Health Insurance

On July 8, 2019, the Massachusetts legislature approved changes to the law surrounding orders for health insurance coverage in cases where child support is ordered. The statutes impacted include G.L. c. 208 (the divorce statute) and G.L. c. 209C (for children of unmarried parents). The law, entitled An Act Making Appropriations For The Fiscal Year 2019 To Provide For Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations And For Certain Other Activities And Projects, provides for, among other things, the following:

  • If the Court enters a child support order, either parent may be ordered to maintain health insurance coverage for a child if such coverage is available at reasonable cost and is accessible to the child. Under the previous law, only the parent paying child support could be ordered to maintain coverage for a child, unless the parties otherwise agreed.
  • Health care coverage is deemed to be reasonable in cost if the cost to the party ordered to provide health care coverage does not exceed 5% of the gross income of that party. Further, private health insurance shall be deemed not available at reasonable cost to a parent whose gross income does not exceed 150% of the federal poverty guidelines for the family size or who receives MassHealth. Prior to this change, the law did not contain a percentage of income cap in determining reasonableness. In fact, if insurance was offered by an employer, the insurance was deemed to be reasonable.
  • To be considered accessible, the insurance plan must offer covered services available within 15 miles of a child’s primary residence. The accessibility requirement is completely new under the law.
  • If a child is enrolled in MassHealth, the law now provides that the Court shall require the enrollment to be maintained as long as the child remains eligible for enrollment. Additionally, the Court may also order the obligor (meaning the parent paying child support) to enroll the child in private health insurance if: (i) private health insurance is available to the obligor at reasonable cost and is accessible to the child; (ii) enrollment in the insurance is in the best interest of the child; and (iii) enrollment in the insurance will not create an undue hardship for the obligor or the obligee.
  • Parents under an order to pay for employer-sponsored coverage that is not accessible to the child, not reasonable in cost, not in the best interests of the child or a hardship to either parent may contest the order or seek modification of an existing order.