In a Contentious Divorce, Who Holds the Card(s)?

Getting to your local DHHS office first shouldn’t be the only thing that counts in your child’s healthcare.

The idea behind the concept of first come, first serve is that a service will be provided to those who arrive first. This makes sense when dealing, for instance, with a limited supply of a product or service in a store or restaurant but should that matter when dealing with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS)? With something as important as your child’s health, the obvious answer is no!

Are you as surprised as I am, that DHHS operates on a first come, first serve basis? As I found out apparently they do. If in applying for services for your child you are the first one to do so the other parent can be excluded from those records. What this means is that as a runner up in this ‘competition’ you now have to deal with the good graces of the parent who beat you to the punch.

It does not matter if you have a court ruling indicating that you have shared parental rights (where all aspects of a child’s upbringing are equal between both parents). As the parent who came in second you lose out. The control of information rests squarely on the shoulders of the first place ‘winner’. This policy is said to be based on human services interpretation of Federal regulations and guidelines.

Does it make sense though?

Of course not.

As it now pits the control of one parent against another – again. If there is any kind of residual animosity between the parents then it can be a nightmare in trying to get something as simple as a duplicate MaineCare card so that the second place parent is able to get services for the child. DHHS will tell you – as the second place runner up -that services will not be denied and health care providers can bring records up via the child’s name, date of birth or social security number, the possibility of delay or denial adds to the tension when needing immediate medical attention for your child. A card or number would provide peace of mind though for that ‘second place’ parent.

As the second place parent it is bad enough having to deal with a faceless government agency for help. Being told by that agency that they can not, will not talk with you about your child because you do not exist as far as they are concerned (despite a court order saying otherwise). Common sense would argue that if there were no court order then the second place parent should not have access to information. Having a court order would or should allow that access. DHHS and the policies behind the organization apparently lack common sense.

In the interest of good co-parenting and what is in the best interest of your child, both parents should be included on any application. Otherwise make sure you are the first one through the doors at DHHS so that you ‘win’ the contest of control. Do that and you will be rewarded by DHHS, don’t and red tape and resistance from the powers that be await you.