By Atty. Andy P. Miller

If you're separated or divorced, it's important to ensure that your child's medical and dental insurance and healthcare arrangements are clearly spelled out in temporary orders and your divorce agreement.

When it comes to insurance, one parent is usually required to provide health and/or dental insurance for the child and/or children of a divorce. (Sometimes one spouse will be required to provide it for the other spouse, as well.) If allowed, it may be financially beneficial to both parents to have the child covered on each of your health and dental plans. Double coverage can mean lower co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for each of you.

Regardless, make sure your separation and/or divorce agreement spells out who will provide the insurance, as well as who's responsible for co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses for medical and dental expenses for the children. Many couples agree to share these costs. However, one parent usually has to pay these upfront, so spell out the terms for reimbursement from the other parent.

It's also important to make sure that each parent has a copy of the child's medical and dental insurance cards to ensure coverage, regardless of which parent the child is with at the time. Equally important is ensuring that both parents have the contact information necessary for all healthcare providers, especially in the event of an emergency.

Once the insurance issue is decided, it's also important to spell out who's responsible for selecting and obtaining medical and dental healthcare for your child. Regardless of whether you have sole or joint physical custody, many parents share legal custody of their children. What this means, among other things, is that parents jointly share in major decisions concerning their children -- including providing for their physical, dental, and mental healthcare.

What exactly does this mean? Ideally, it means you agree to the healthcare providers and are able to communicate your child's medical and dental health care needs. But even if that's the case, you may want to have your attorney include specific language in your separation and/or divorce agreement that requires both of you to discuss and approve in advance decisions as to the choice of healthcare providers, treatment plans, and elective procedures and expenses, such as braces.

Your agreement also should address how medical and dental treatment will be handled in the event of an emergency, if the other parent cannot be contacted prior to services being provided.

Whether you have joint or sole legal custody, it just makes sense to discuss with the other parent all aspects of your child's medical, dental, and mental healthcare needs. Ideally, both parents should have access to all medical records and be able to attend appointments, if desired. This is especially important for parents of children with special physical, mental, and emotional needs.

The bottom line is it's important that both parents be kept informed as to your child/children's healthcare issues at all times. Have a plan in place to communicate with your child's other parent about routine and emergency healthcare issues and communicate about handling the big healthcare choices in your child's life.

Attorney Andy P. Miller is the founder and managing attorney of Miller Law Group, P.C. (apmillerlawgroup.com). A father himself, Miller focuses on children and their best interests by helping guide parents through the divorce process. Having practiced in nearly every county in Massachusetts, he has a wide understanding of the various courts in Massachusetts and experience before many judges.