Do I Have to Pay My Child’s Medical Debt If I Didn't Sign For It?

A listener wants to know if he is responsible for his child's medical bills even though he never signed anything taking legal responsibility for those bills?

My teenage son lives with his mother in Georgia. I live in Alabama. I pay his mother $500/month in child support but we were never married and there was no divorce decree, court order or any other legal document governing the support or financial responsibility.

My son recently received medical treatment and the hospital has started to send me bills for thousands of dollars. My son is listed as a dependent on my insurance and have been for 14 years but I have never received a bill associated with any of his doctors’ visits or medical treatment provided in Georgia as I have not been the one to sign the statement of financial responsibility for treatment received in Georgia.

Two questions - number one, am I legally responsible for medical debts that are not authorized by my signature on the statement of financial responsibility?

Second question, can the hospital or any other the medical provider report these debts to credit reporting agencies without the signed statement of financial responsibility from me even though the debt is associated with a dependent listed on my insurance plan?

I understand the moral responsibility but my question is specifically about the legal responsibility and whether or not it can affect my credit score as the bills are in the thousand of dollars. Thank you for the consideration. Thank you Gerri.

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Mar 19, 2017
Responsible party
by: Granville Davis

My grandson's medical bill of $2,007 was filed against me for collection because the hospital had designated me as guarantor.

My grandson has health insurance coverage with both his mother and father.

And he is not on my insurance policy. Now morally I don't mind paying the bill and I will. But I resent them (I believe) trying to force me to to do something that very well may not be legal.

Reply from Gerri Detweiler

I am sorry I missed this earlier. I've heard this kind of complaint before. It sounds like it's too late to dispute the collection account, but I would encourage you to at least file a complaint with your state attorney's general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Jan 23, 2014
Responsibility for your child's medical bills
by: Gerri

You may be responsible for your child's medical bills under state law. In some states, parents can be responsible for their children's necessary expenses - including medical expenses - under laws often referred to as "Doctrines of Necessaries."

However, that said, in some states creditors must first try to collect from the spouse who incurred the debt before trying to collect from the other spouse.

Because this is a large debt I would encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney who can help you clarify your rights and obligations here. If you are responsible for these debts, then make sure you insist upon detailed bills for all charges and try to negotiate if they are unaffordable. You'll find some podcast with medical bill advice here.

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