Conflicting visions
June 29, 2011 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Who should pay for my stepdaughter's glasses?

My husband, C, and his ex-wife, B, have been divorced for about 8 years. They have joint legal and physical custody of their two daughters, ages 13 and 11. Time is shared fairly equally (a little more with us, although she is considered the residential parent). Neither party pays child support to the other because we proved in court years ago that we pay at least an equal share of the girls' expenses.

Per the original court order, the kids' medical expenses are to be split 60/40 (the 60 is my husband's). They are covered by state insurance through B, and the only thing we've ever had to pay anything for (aside from occasional prescription or doctor visit copays, which have just been picked up by whoever's with the kids at the time and have never been an issue) is my older stepdaughter's braces.

Last weekend, during B's legal time with the girls, she took them to the beach. My older stepdaughter wore her eyeglasses into the ocean and lost them in the waves.

We got an email from B the next day telling us what had happened. She asked C to make an appointment with the optician, which we'd expected and were fine with, since B is currently working during the day but C has days off during the summer and looks after the girls every weekday. She ended the email by saying, "I will pay half the cost."

We don't think we should have to pay at all, since it happened on B's watch and she was responsible. If this had happened during our family's annual beach vacation, for instance, neither C nor I would have thought of asking B to pay because she wasn't there and had nothing to do with it. We already checked into the girls' insurance coverage and unfortunately we can't get any help through them because they'll only the cost of glasses every two years, and these were only about a year old and perfectly functional.

We are going forward and making the appointment because our girl really needs the glasses to function and we can't penalize her for it, but B is resisting the idea that this is a personal-responsibility thing that should fall outside of the range of ordinary medical expenses. We'll end up footing it if we have to but will be pretty pissed. Are we SOL without going to court?
posted by dlugoczaj to Law & Government (51 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is a medical expense, period. Forgot on "whose watch" they were lost -- the DAUGHTER lost them, not the parents. So unless you want to charge the daughter, which I suspect you don't, you pay for it as if it's a medical expense.
posted by brainmouse at 11:06 AM on June 29, 2011 [56 favorites]

You should split it 60/40, as was legally agreed to. The mom is being super nice by agreeing to pay half.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:07 AM on June 29, 2011 [14 favorites]

It is a legitimate medical expense, and she's willing to pay slightly more than the 40% she normally would.

The girl is personally responsible for her own glasses. Whose watch it happened under is irrelevant. If she lost them at school, would you expect the teacher to pay?
posted by hermitosis at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2011 [32 favorites]

Pay half, and please for the love of god don't gripe about it in front of the kids, either.

What if she had, instead, broken her leg "on their watch"? Stuff happens, and fighting over it will only create tension for the kids and make their lives that much more unpleasant.
posted by Andrhia at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

What brainmouse said. Accidents happen and glasses get lost or break (especially kids' glasses) just like cars break down and houses need maintenance. It is a routine part of the cost of wearing glasses.
posted by enn at 11:09 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't look at it as happening on the mom's watch. This was a teenager being a teenager (and no judgement - I lost or damaged many a retainer or pair of specs as a youth; it just happens. Okay, I still do as an adult. That's life.) and the glasses got swallowed up.
Pay the 60% as agreed.
posted by pointystick at 11:09 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going to court over the cost of eyeglasses? Come on.

No. Exactly what brainmouse said.
posted by Specklet at 11:10 AM on June 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Was B negligent? No. It was a wave. Your kid lost her glasses on her own. It happens.

Pay your share and don't make a thing of it.
posted by bondcliff at 11:12 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you have a great relationship with your stepdaughter's mother, to the great and lasting benefit of both of your stepdaughters.

Isn't that relationship worth more than half the cost of a pair of eyeglasses?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Unless she has uncommonly strong or unusual glasses, you should get a yearly prescription update and then buy them online. Spending more than about $50 on glasses for kids is silly now that we have all these online places.

Maybe she can get new ones once or twice a year (it's fun to go through all the choices and pick out favorites online), and it won't be a big expense or big deal anymore. She will have a relatively recent backup pair around too for emergencies, then.
posted by fritley at 11:15 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

(On a tangent, if cost is a serious issue, Zenni Optical and probably the other online glasses stores that I can't remember the name of right now have children's glasses, and a wide variety of adult glasses if the girl has an adult-sized head already)
posted by brainmouse at 11:16 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

May be my imagination, but...

I get the feeling from reading this that you think the mother is irresponsible, and maybe this isn't the first time something like this has happened. If that's the case, asking her to pay the whole cost is asking her to own up to her mistakes. Maybe you think your daughter shouldn't have gone in the water at all with her glasses on. I mean, I don't swim with my glasses on.

I get it, and if you feel strongly that she should pay, it doesn't hurt to mention it. I would call her, though, if you can, and try to have a non-confrontational conversation about it. You'd have to be up to this, though. Otherwise, I would just pay the half and then talk to my daughter about caring for glasses and appropriate places to wear glasses. She was really the one that lost them, not the mother.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:17 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If the kid got sick while with the mom, the dad would pay 60%. This is no different than that. The daughter is the one responsible, and *both* parents are responsible for the daughter. 13-year-olds sometimes do dumb things, it's way better that she lost glasses than, say, dove into a shallow pool. Seriously, this isn't a 4-year-old, it isn't mom's fault that the girl swam with her glasses on. If it's a failure of parenting, then it's a failure on both parts to raise her responsible enough not to swim in glasses. If that sounds silly, then it's probably because yeah, even *adults* do this sometimes, and it's just something you deal with.

I wouldn't be above asking the girl to work it off for both parents, though, any more than I would if the kid lost an iPod and expected it replaced with something similarly expensive. Learning experience, all that. If you're replacing them at someplace like Zenni, though, that would probably be over-the-top. (Seriously, I have "backup glasses" now just because they were so cheap there.)
posted by gracedissolved at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a full-time glasses wearer myself, I can't imagine buying glasses online. How does that work, exactly, since you can't try them on and won't know what's flattering or comfortable?
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:28 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would call her, though, if you can, and try to have a non-confrontational conversation about it.

Do NOT do this, for so many reasons. 1) Your husband should be dealing with her, not you, for the usual reasons. 2) I'm getting the strong impression that you're making a pair of lost glasses (!) into a whole story about All That's Wrong About Her Parenting. It's not a story. It's a pair of glasses. 3) Glasses get lost and glasses break. I wear my glasses on the beach and even when I'm going wading. I'm blind as a bat without them. And yes, I lost a pair in the water once. I also broke several pairs as a teenager. And one of them the cat broke, which no one would believe. Seriously. They break.

Repeat, do NOT call her and have a "non confrontational" conversation about how you think she's Doing Things Wrong. Jeez.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2011 [23 favorites]

How bad is your stepdaughter's vision? Is it even feasible for her to go in the ocean without them? Swimming blind isn't particularly safe, either. Perhaps you can consider contact lenses -- I got them at around 13, in particular for being able to go into the ocean.
posted by jeather at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you asked, here are the bookmarks I saved (many from here!) about where and how/why to buy glasses online: glasses bookmarks. The ones closer to the bottom (except the bottom one) are the overview articles. :)
posted by wintersweet at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [15 favorites]

And I would love for my SD to be able to "work it off," as you say, gracedissolved--unfortunately, opportunities are limited. We're just at the point where we're willing to leave her alone or with her sister for a while at home, so babysitting hasn't quite started up (although we want to send her to a certification course at the community center next month). There aren't many home chores that she could do other than those that are already assigned to her or her sister, and having only half her time at our house doesn't help there either. We don't live in a neighborhood where we feel comfortable having her go around and ask to do yard work or what-have-you. In short, right now finding work for her just translates into "more work for us."

It's a shame because I think she's actually been bullying her mother about money lately and needs to understand exactly what we're all capable of/willing to do. Getting her positioned to earn some money of her own is part of it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:40 AM on June 29, 2011

small-ruminant, don't worry, I'm not calling her; C does most of the back-and-forth, and he's already tried arguing the responsibility angle. SOL seems to be the consensus all round.

(I've also already invested in one of these for everybody in the family who wears glasses--including me--since we do have the beach trip coming up in the near future.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:44 AM on June 29, 2011

Yeah, amodelcitizen's highlighted answer is the one with the worst advice. If you feel strongly that she should pay, well, whatever; you are wrong, so forget about it and move on. It was gracious of her to mention the "I'll pay half," if her responsibility = 40%.

I wear my glasses in the water; I'm not even at the blind-as-bat level, just not comfortable without them. I am a grown-up but I've lost glasses on the bus, and on a walk down my own street... I would not make a child pay for glasses unless some serious repeat negligence was involved.

You buy them on-line by knowing what pair you want (having tried that pair on in a store), or by going by what shapes you know look good on you, or by uploading your pic and using the little technological try-on gizmos, or by measuring your current glasses and checking it with the listed measurements... Any optical shop can easily make the adjustments needed for them to be comfortable.
posted by kmennie at 11:47 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pay the 60% and say thank you to the mom for offering to pay half. Tell your step-daughter to be more careful. She is at an age where responsibility for these things starts to get transferred to her. Maybe she just doesn't get the cool expensive glasses this time - just the not-as-cool, not-as-expensive ones.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm not sure where the whole perception of 'SOL' is coming from. It's eyeglasses. I end up having to buy a new pair for my youngest son about every year - 18 months. We're talking a couple hundred dollars at the most. And you're splitting it half-way!

That's the cost of having a kid.

Geeze.. I know people are confrontational after divorces, but let's not cause a blowup over a fairly mundane incident.
posted by rich at 11:54 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

kmennie--the highlighting on amodelcitizen's answer was more for the sensitivity to the entire issue than for the suggestion to call. We've already gone through all that. ThatCanadianGirl (who I also highlighted) is pretty much spot-on re cool expensive glasses part, although we will have B pay half since she offered.

Sometimes I wish you could only highlight parts of a posting.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:57 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a full-time glasses wearer myself, I can't imagine buying glasses online. How does that work, exactly, since you can't try them on and won't know what's flattering or comfortable?

It works better for me than does shopping in the store. In the store, you can try glasses on, sure... But you don't actually get to see what you look like in them (given that you can't wear prescription lenses and try on frames at the same time). Different websites have different programs to help you figure out what looks good on your head. I also enjoy it a lot more: there's a much greater selection and there's a lot less pressure. I suspect a teenage girl would have great fun with it, since there's a good selection of fun/crazy/'stylish' glasses online you can't find elsewhere -- and they're super cheap enough to just go with it.

Really, online glasses are a fantastic solution, and they'll be cheap enough that you'll completely forget to be annoyed at having to pay for them.
posted by meese at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

dlugoczaj writes "How does that work, exactly, since you can't try them on and won't know what's flattering or comfortable?"

It's a bit of a risk. I've bought five pairs on line and one pair doesn't really fit well. But five pairs cost me about $80 total verses $240 for the last pair I bought in person. I leave the ill fitting pair in the car for emergency back ups.
posted by Mitheral at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, when I was careless with my glasses at a slightly younger age I was told that _I_ could pay for the pair I'd just lost with babysitting and chores money. I wasn't allowed to watch TV until I'd payed them off. It SUCKED.

But I stopped watching TV, mostly, and I didn't lose another pair of glasses until 20 years later (at the ocean - dang, she's hungry for optics!).

So I totally agree with getting less cool ones, and being otherwise kind about it. And, yeah, a cheap backup internet pair might be a good idea for an active kid!
posted by ldthomps at 12:00 PM on June 29, 2011

I lost my glasses in the ocean, and I'm blind as a bat without them. I didn't know about the incredibly cheap prescription swimming goggles (under $10) you can buy. They're approximate and you may need two in order to get left and right eyes correct, but it completely changed my life as a swimmer. I'd strongly recommend buying them (e.g. here).

I agree with others on the responsibility. Buying glasses can be incredibly expensive, but for active, growing kids, buying online is a good option. Even with top-of-the-line options, you're hard pressed to pay more than $100. The point about them is that they're sufficiently cheap that you can lose them, make mistakes, etc. without feeling like you just opened a hole in your bank account. The cheaper ones for the only moderately short-sighted are so cheap that you can tolerate the loss much more easily. That said, I reckon there's a market out there for a glasses shop to help with adjustment. I feel a bit of a fraud buying online and asking a store to adjust them.
posted by idb at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

WOW. I totally didn't know that that was possible, idb. That might just change my husband's life for the better (he's the real swimmer in the family).
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2011

I learned about Zenni Optical right here on MetaFilter. You just send your prescription, including the PD (pupilary distance) measurement, and select a style. It's so much cheaper but the quality is fine.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Online glasses are a seriously great thing. You can buy three or four pairs for the price of one at the optician's, which for me means I just don't worry about my glasses the way I used to. And as an adult, at least, I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of frames look good on my face. I wish it had been an option when I was a kid; perhaps I wouldn't have had to wear those damn PINK glasses I picked out in fourth grade all the way through middle school.
posted by mskyle at 12:20 PM on June 29, 2011

nthing Zenni. You can upload a picture to "try on" the glasses and they allow returns. I'm fairly nearsighted and can't function without glasses or contacts, and I have several pairs of $10(!) glasses from the site.
posted by lalex at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2011

How long is the turnaround time for Zenni, or similar sites? I'm still feeling kind of leery about it but that just may be an unfamiliarity thing.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:26 PM on June 29, 2011

@dlugoczaj, the writeups in the set of links that I posted (including one by mathowie!) have information about that, though they may have gotten faster since then.
posted by wintersweet at 12:31 PM on June 29, 2011

Less than 2 weeks. You don't have to be leery, several of us, including me, will vouch for them. They're good. I also like
posted by IndigoRain at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Umm, that should be, sorry!
posted by IndigoRain at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2011

I'm wearing glasses purchased online through eyebuydirect right now, and I'm happy with them. The relevant logistical issues for me were, in sequential order: getting my prescription from a brick & mortar shop (no seriously, LensCrafters, I just want the piece of paper!), measuring my pupillary distance (not a big deal, but requires a second person or a mirror - or getting an optometrist to write it down for you on the Rx), finding glasses I like that were the right width (this could be challenging for a 13 year old - I recall most of them were either tiny kid-sized or too wide for my face), and then getting the fit right once they showed up. Without going and having them fitted, my current pair would fall off my head with any sudden movement. So far, every store I've tried has done adjustments for free and without complaint and refused charge, although it does make me feel slightly awkward knowing that I have no real intention of buying my next set of glasses there at crazy brick & mortar markup.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2011

nthing Zenni: I got my prescription and ordered glasses from my hospital's optometry center one day and ordered some cheap glasses (<$20) from Zenni the next day. I got my Zenni glasses in the mail before the hospital optometry called to say their more expensive glasses were ready for pickup. I didn't go for any bells and whistles for the Zenni stuff so I'll probably only wear that pair if I break/lose my more expensive pair, but $20 is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
posted by Seboshin at 12:53 PM on June 29, 2011

You talking about her bullying her mom reminded me of a few things. First, that teenage girls can be especially rebellious, snotty, and/or thoughtless to their mothers.

This might make it seem like your husband's ex is doing a relatively poor job of parenting or discipline, when in reality it's a mother/daughter thing that just isn't happening with you or her dad because, well, you're not Mom.

Children of divorced parents also try to see what they can get away with in terms of painting one parent or the other in a negative light. My parents are divorced, and it was always tempting to play into the narratives they have about one another as an attempt to show loyalty, or try to see if I can get something out of one parent that I couldn't get from another. It's also part of learning that what you say and do has influence on what other people think and experimenting with that power--something that gets very important in the social forge that is middle school/junior high.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Three cheers for Zenni! They charge what glasses should cost.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2011

I think the safest course at this point is to get a new pair at JC Penney or Walmart (we're probably not going to use her insurance-mandated optician for anything except getting the prescription if insurance isn't going to cover the glasses) and then go to Zenni or somewhere else online for a backup. The issues with fit that deludingmyself brings up IS really a thing for a 3yo whose body is really on the kid/adult cusp. As is the awkwardness of bringing an online purchase to a ground store for a fitting, which I would be fine with if we actually did business of some sort with that company.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2011

13yo, not 3yo
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2011

If the kid loses any more glasses she needs to be accountable. One pair is an accident.

If her eyes are so bad that she needs glasses while swimming then get a strap to hold them to her head.
posted by mareli at 1:15 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're this concerned about the issue of the glasses, I think you're too stressed about the details. Be positive about the Mom; it's really important for kids of divorce to grow up without the parents disrespecting one another. Someday, and it might be a while, she'll figure out that her Mom can be flaky or whatever, and that you were supportive of her relationship with her Mom, and she'll appreciate it. I'm a single Mom, and my son has put some of it together. He's knows I'm the responsible one, and has begun to realize that I gave up elements of my life to take care of him, and he appreciates it. I was careful to help him welcome his stepmother into his life, because a stepmom can be a great friend. I doubt she'll ever appreciate it, but my son does.
posted by theora55 at 1:29 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

My grown HUSBAND lost some glasses this way years ago. Just get the kid some glasses and talk to her.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:42 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you have a CostCo membership? (Or whatever bulk/group purchasing outfit is in your area...) Mine has glasses for much, much cheaper than JC Penney.

To answer the original question: This is only an issue if you're paying too much for glasses.
posted by anaelith at 2:06 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get her the new glasses. Pay 60% and thank the mom for the offer. Ask her to instead buy a strap for swimming.

Disclaimer: I wear my glasses while swimming.
posted by acoutu at 9:48 PM on June 29, 2011

I don't understand how this is a "responsibility" issue. Mostly because almost anything that goes "wrong" can be framed that way. There's a technical logic to it that makes it feel legitimate but actually damages your relationship with the "irresponsible" person you're angry with, if you press the point.

Having said that, i've been on all sides of this. Jumped in the water at 15 with my glasses on. My mom didn't "make my dad" pay for them---they were an intact couple---so going to court wasn't an option.

My stepdaughter broke her glasses horsing around just a few weeks after getting them. I was ticked. But not at the afterschool program folks. And I sounded ridiculous being angry at my stepdaughter --- I want her to live a life where she can horse around with friends. And yes, money is tight. (Her mom bought her glasses online and they look terrible and stepdaughter doesn't like them but they'll never get around to returning them).

I get angry when the unexpected happens and it costs money, especially when I wasn't there. And then I remember that I'm the cause of the expensive unexpected sometimes, for other people--mostly my husband. Like my ER visit or my speeding ticket. Or the exotic ingredients I buy and then let rot in the fridge. Very irresponsible.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:20 AM on June 30, 2011

Look: my parents were divorced when I was four. I've had severe myopia since about the third grade and really need glasses to function. My glasses got lost or broken fairly often when I was a kid, and sometimes it was my fault but often it wasn't. Once I left them in a stupid place and someone stepped on them. Once my little sister broke them. A few times bullies at school broke them on purpose.

No matter the reason for the breakage or loss, no matter which parent I'd been with at the time, every time, every single time my glasses had to be replaced when I was a kid, my parents would argue for days over who would pay for it. Every. Single. Time. And I remember every one of those times. I remember going days feeling lost without being able to see while my parents argued over who should pay so I could stop go around being legally blind. It didn't matter that they sometimes tried to hide the fact that they were arguing from me -- I wasn't stupid. I overheard things.

They had their reasons for arguing, that I'm sure seemed like good reasons to them -- reasons that I understand better now that I'm an adult with a child and a budget. But at the time, as a kid, I just felt like like my parents cared more about who won the argument than whether their daughter could see. That was the message I got -- that my parents' ongoing fight over who should suffer more from all the expenses associated with raising a kid was more important than my health or wellbeing.

Can you tell I still feel hurt about them not even noticing that they were making me feel this way? Because I am. I'm 30, and I'm still upset with my divorced parents for arguing over who should pay for my glasses when I was 12. Think about that, please, before you make a big fat argument out of this thing.

There are so many ways that divorced families put kids in the middle of a dispute without even realizing they're doing it. For me that was pretty much the worst thing about growing up in a divorced household. (Multiple holidays and birthday parties are awesome. Extra parents who love you? Also awesome. But none of those things entirely make up for feeling like the rope in a game of tug of war.)
posted by BlueJae at 7:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

To be fair, glasses (especially before online was a good option) can be insanely expensive. No-one likes $400 surprises, especially when it seems careless.
posted by idb at 12:31 PM on July 1, 2011

No one has to pay $400 for glasses unless they have a prescription more peculiar than I've run into. If you want CUTE glasses? Then yes, maybe.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:38 PM on July 1, 2011

A little belated, but if you don't have stuff for her to do around the house, volunteer work also works. A couple Saturdays helping out with a soup kitchen kind of deal, that kind of thing. Enough to establish that something like that has a consequence, but not necessarily a monstrously horrible consequence.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:35 AM on July 2, 2011

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