Health Insurance and Divorce - COBRA and Beyond / by Cassandra Hearn

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Divorce carries with it many logistical requirements in addition to the emotional and financial toll it can take on you and your family.  You will need to figure out a new budget, new visitation schedule for your children, new plans for retirement, and probably a new place to live.  Not least among these logistical considerations is health insurance.  Health insurance is essential to financial security in the event of any injury, illness, or other health event.  It is important to understand how health insurance will be impacted by your divorce if you are covered under your spouse’s employer health insurance.

When a divorce is filed, there are Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders which come into place.  These ATROS prevent either party from making major changes, including changing who is covered on health insurance.  This means that even in the most acrimonious divorce, your spouse cannot simply remove you from your health insurance coverage unless and until the court gives permission.  That said, if you are also employed and health insurance is available through your own employment, you should start doing research into the policies, plans, and costs of each in order to prepare for the divorce.

At the time of the divorce, it is very likely that you will not be able to stay on your former-spouse’s health insurance policy.  While you are determining the next appropriate step for your health insurance coverage, you will have some relief.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or “COBRA,” is a federal law that requires your spouse’s employer to provide you with temporary health insurance after divorce.  Understand, however, that this coverage will not be free of cost.  In addition, the employer subsidies that your former spouse may have enjoyed that lowered the monthly premiums will also not be available to you.  This means that your monthly premiums may be very high, so make sure you work this potential cost into your budget.  You will have six months from the time of your divorce during which you can continue pay for COBRA coverage.  After that time has elapsed, the employer is no longer required to provide you with temporary coverage.

We have experience with helping our clients understand the logistical issues with divorce and health insurance.  If you have questions, call us today for a consultation.