Do I Have to Pay My Child’s Medical Debt If I Didn't Sign For It?
A reader 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.
Reply from Gerri Detweiler
Yes, you are likely responsible for your minor child's medical bills under state law. In many states, parents are 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.