Do I Have to Pay for My Daughter’s Nose Job?

Question

My sixteen year old daughter has despaired over the size of her nose for years.   I think she’s beautiful the way she is, but she says that her less-than-perfect nose is ruining her social life and her self esteem.   She recently announced that she wants to “correct” her nose over the summer break so that she can have a fresh start when she starts her junior year of high school.  My ex-wife supports this decision and has been helping our daughter shop for a plastic surgeon.

They recently found a plastic surgeon that they like and have made an appointment for the surgery.  Now my ex is saying that I need to foot part of the bill because our child support order says that I am required to pay 72.4% towards uninsured medical expenses.  She says that if I don’t pay up voluntarily, she’ll ask the court to order me to pay my share.  Can she do this?

Answer

Probably not.  Although every Washington Order of Child Support obligates a parent to pay a certain percentage of a child “uninsured medical expenses,” not all uninsured expenses are treated equally.  RCW 26.19.080 is the Washington statute that sets out the rules about payment for uninsured medical expenses:

… Monthly health care costs shall be shared by the parents in the same proportion as the basic child support obligation. Health care costs shall include, but not be limited to, medical, dental, orthodontia, vision, chiropractic, mental health treatment, prescription medications, and other similar costs for care and treatment.

The court may exercise its discretion to determine the necessity for and the reasonableness of all amounts ordered in excess of the basic child support obligation.

While the statute does not specifically exclude plastic surgery expenses, it does give the court the discretion to decide whether or not the uninsured expense is both necessary and reasonable.  In some cases, a court might very well decide that a plastic surgery procedure is necessary and reasonable – such as a case where a child is severely disfigured, or where the procedure will alleviate some other health problem (such as correction of a deviated nasal septum).  It sounds like your daughter and your ex want this surgery for purely aesthetic reasons – which reasons a court will probably not find very compelling.

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