Legal Question in Family Law in Washington

I am a divorced father of twin boys that are 17 years old. I am an optometrist.

My ex-wife wants me to pay for their eye exams when she could bring them to me and

I could check their vision for free. They do live 4 hours away but she has family that she can visit near my clinic. If the parenting plan states that I am responsible for their health care expenses, would I be obligated to pay for their eye exams to another eye doctor when I would be able to check their vision and not incur any charges? My boys have been subject to Parental Alienation Syndrome by their mother for the past 11 years so they don't like coming to visit me (the rejected parent who has financially supported them all of these years). Any advice?

Asked on 6/26/13, 1:12 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Amir John Showrai The Pacific Law Firm, PLLC

This is not even close. Pay for the exams. On a purely practical level, you should pay for the exams. Money is always an issue and given your sons' age, pursuing this matter would cost far more than the one eye exam they will need before they turn 18. Even if you tried to make a motion to force the kids to come to you for an eye exam on a pro se basis (without a lawyer), the amount of time it would take you, not to mention the at least half day out of work to be in court makes this a financial no-brainer. Pay for the eye exam.

Suppose though that you do go to court and make an argument that it is reasonable for your twins to travel 4 hours each way to see you because there is family nearby where they and your ex can stay. While I cannot guarantee it, PAS or no PAS, I'd bet my left arm that your argument will make for an angry judge. Assuming you are 100% correct about PAS, and it does exist because I've seen it in action, your motion will still be seen as completely unreasonable. You can also expect to have to pay for your ex's attorney fees.

I would venture to guess that the cost of gasoline to travel round trip for the four hour drive each way to see you for an eye exam exceeds the cost of the two eye exams after insurance kicks in their share. Heck, I'd bet even if there is no insurance, the gas and meals exceed the costs of you paying cash for two eye exams at another optometrist. Even if I am wrong, and it costs $200 more, that's still a bargain compared to the alternative.

Be smart. If there is PAS going on, at age 17, your better bet is to wait until the boys turn 18 and then try to rehabilitate your relationship with them in a way that allows you to go around a parenting plan's restrictions. However, do not force yourself upon them. You will never be able to force your way into their lives, so you have to take what they will give. Just let them know you are there for them whenever they need you. It may take years for them to come around and understand that whatever happened between you and their mother has nothing to do with them. However, once they do realize this, they are likely to view their relationships with each of you differently than they currently do, and so long as you have kept the door open to them, they may come around. Sadly, sometimes kids never do come around.

By the way, I would add that if you are willing to travel to see the boys and give them the eye exam in the town where they live, then that presents a different issue. However, given some of the equipment used in complete eye exams are not portable, such as the device a patient puts their forehead and chin into so that you can examine inside the eye for things like glaucoma, this idea may be impractical. Then again, maybe you have a friend who will either do you a favor and give the exams at no charge or allow you use of their office. Otherwise, this is not a battle you are going to win.

No court will order the kids to travel 4 hours each way to save you some money, even if you were paying their gas, food, and lodging costs. Sorry to be so blunt, but better you read it here, coming from me, rather than hearing it from a judge or court commissioner who will also likely award your ex attorney fees for having to defend such a motion.

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Answered on 6/26/13, 2:05 pm

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