Can a Court Order the Payment of a Spouse’s Medical Expenses Following a New York Divorce?

As we have previously discussed in past blog posts, a New York family court can order payment from one spouse to another of maintenance during the pendency of Nursewithman-300x200the divorce as well as after the divorce is final. Payments made during the pendency of the divorce are called temporary maintenance, pendente lite maintenance or sometimes spousal support, and payments made following the divorce are termed spousal maintenance or post-judgment maintenance.

Under the New York Domestic Relations Law, section 236(B), a court is required to consider a formula based on income and certain factors when determining a deviation from the formula guidelines for the appropriate amount of temporary maintenance, spousal support or maintenance. By and large, the factors are similar for the two types of awards, with the difference being that spousal support or temporary maintenance is designed only to last during the divorce proceeding. When it comes to determining whether a court can order one spouse to pay for another spouse’s medical expenses, the first place to look is at the factors outlined in section 236(B).

The statute lists a number of factors that a judge should consider, none of which explicitly mention the payment of medical expenses. However, several of the factors tangentially relate to medical expenses. So, in effect, a court could indirectly take a party’s medical expenses into account.

For example, the following factors are specifically enumerated under DRP 236(B) as those which the court should consider:

  • the age and health of the parties;
  • the availability and cost of medical insurance for the parties; and
  • the present or future earning capacity of the parties.

In addition, there is the catch-all factor, allowing a court to consider “any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.” Thus, while the court is unlikely to order a party to cover the future medical expenses of a spouse, the court can consider the underlying illness and the effect it has on the spouse’s ability to obtain work.  Thus the medical issues could be a potential reason to deviate from the guideline amount of maintenance and perhaps even the guideline duration of maintenance.

It is also important to distinguish future medical expenses from those expenses that have already been incurred. Thus far we have spoken about future medical expenses and the impact they may have on a spouse’s ability to support themselves. For expenses that have already been incurred, a court could assign those expenses to the other spouse as part of the equitable distribution of debts and assets. In making this determination, the court will consider the same factors used for the equitable distribution of other marital debts and assets.

Are You Going Through a New York Divorce?

If you are currently going through a New York divorce, or are contemplating filing for a divorce, you can contact my office.  While some New York separations and divorces are by agreement, many are long and drawn-out affairs rife with conflict.  I am an experienced New York divorce attorney with experience in both litigation and mediation of New York divorce and family law claims, including complex divorce cases. To learn how we can help you with your current situation, call 516-333-6555 to schedule a free initial consultation up to a half hour.

See Other Blog Posts:

Are Children Required to Comply with New York Visitation Orders?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, October 12, 2018

Who Pays for Health Insurance Following a New York Divorce?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, October 21, 2018

Contact Information