Emancipated Children Must Be Primarily Dependent upon Insured Parent as a Continuing Obligation for Insured Parent to Be Required to Provide Insurance – Published Opinion from Ky. Court of Appeals

Pink Piggy Bank

McCain v. McCarty

Daviess Family Court

Parties were granted joint custody of their three minor children, and Father was required to pay $158.17 per week in child support and to maintain the children on his health insurance plan. Several years later, Mother moved to hold Father in contempt for failure to pay child support. At a hearing, Father testified he had been overpaying, as two of the parties’ children had emancipated. He also testified that of the 30 payments he allegedly missed, he had records to prove 15 and believed the amount of the arrearage to be even smaller but had no more documentation, as some of the payments were from 2008. Father admitted to missing 11 payments, totaling approximately $1,739. He also testified that Mother told him not to worry about the 17 cents per week, which Mother denied. After the hearing, Father filed documentation for all but 15 payments and stated he could prove more if not for the unavailability of Mother’s banking records. The 15 payments, while being credited for four more, were consistent with Father’s testimony of only having an arrearage of $1,739. Furthermore, the documentation showed that nearly all his payments were less the 17 cents.

After Father removed the parties’ eldest daughter from his health insurance, Mother moved Family Court to compel Father to reinstate their daughter on his plan and to enjoin him from dropping their middle child from the plan. At a hearing, Mother testified that the children were full-time students, currently dependent upon her, and had been dependent on Danny until they emancipated.

Family Court entered an order that Father had an arrearage of $1,739 in child support and that Father was not obligated to provide health insurance for the eldest and middle children under KRS 403.211(7)(c)(3). Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals held that Family Court’s child support arrearage determination was supported by substantial evidence. The trial court is the fact-finder and charged with judging the credibility of the witnesses. Family Court found Father’s testimony and records to be more credible than Mother’s, which was not clear error from the record. So supported by substantial evidence too was Family Court’s finding and conclusion that the parties had orally modified the child support order by 17 cents, where Family Court found “the agreement would be fair and equitable; there would be little detriment to the children if support was ultimately reduced by less than $10.00 a year.”

The Court of Appeals held that Family Court did not err in not ordering Father to cover his emancipated children on his health insurance. In order to make such an order, a family court must find that (1) the children are full-time students; (2) the children are enrolled in and attending an accredited educational institution; and (3) the children are primarily dependent upon the insured parent. The children must be dependent upon the insured parent as a continuing obligation, as opposed to only at the time of emancipation. Mother testified that the emancipated children are now dependent upon her as opposed to Father, and she was unable to satisfy the final element.

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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