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During marriage, it is pretty common for one spouse to have health insurance coverage provided through his/her employer and to cover the other spouse and the couple's children under that plan. How will a divorce affect both the spouse's and the children's coverage during the divorce proceedings and after the divorce?
Health insurance pending divorce: While a divorce is pending and you are simply separated from your spouse, if you are currently covered under your spouse's health insurance plan, your spouse is not allowed to unilaterally remove you or change your health insurance coverage. On page 2 of the Summons, there is a list of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, including a specific order regarding health insurance. If your spouse attempts to remove you from the coverage, talk to an attorney and consider filing a Motion for Contempt.
Health insurance after divorce: It is common for one spouse to be a stay at home parent without any access to health insurance benefits or employed at a job that doesn't offer health benefits. If this is the case, getting health insurance after a divorce may be a significant burden and expense especially because after the divorce an ex-spouse is no longer considered a "family member" for purposes of qualifying under the other spouse's health coverage plan.
To avoid this dilemma, sometimes couples decide to proceed with a legal separation rather than a dissolution of marriage. Although they will be legally separated and property division, custody and support issues will all be resolved in a separation agreement, they will remain married for purposes of remaining qualified under the other spouse's health insurance plan. The parties may agree to remain legally separated for a specified amount of time (i.e. until the "uninsured" spouse is able to obtain health insurance through other means) before actually filing for divorce.
If filing for legal separation is not an option for you and you are instead proceeding with a dissolution, there are still other state and federal statutes (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act "COBRA") which allow you to temporarily retain coverage, at a cost, under your spouse's health insurance plan for a limited period of time after divorce. Many divorces also result in an arrangement whereby the insured spouse makes cash payments to the uninsured spouse as and for health insurance coverage. This arrangement will typically cover the children as well if the uninsured spouse is the custodial parent after the divorce. Making sure that the spouse and children remain insured is an important issue to discuss in settlement negotiations or divorce litigation if the parties cannot amicably agree.
It's important to consider your family's health insurance situation before a divorce occurs so that you can ensure coverage one way or another and avoid any complications. If you are worried about your health insurance coverage and how a divorce may affect your rights remain covered, call today to get assistance from an experienced attorney to help guide your through the divorce process. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call 858-793-8884 to receive assistance today.