By Laura Langenburg
What are your obligations and/or options in regards to maintaining your wife’s health insurance coverage during and after the divorce?
In general, the courts will require the parties to maintain the status quo during a divorce proceeding and that would include continuing the same insurance policies and financial practices that were in place prior to the filing of the divorce.
However, maintaining health insurance after a Judgment of Divorce is filed does not always require a party to maintain health insurance on another party.
Whether you are required to continue health insurance coverage for your spouse after your divorce may be beyond your control. Most employer-provided health insurance plans cover the employees family members at a discounted under terms agreed to between the health insurance company and the employer.
Normally, once a party divorces a spouse, health insurance coverage is no longer extended to the former spouse. This is not a circumstance that you can control, as these terms are determined between your employer and the insurance company.
In general, the issue of continuing health insurance after a Judgment of Divorce is entered is addressed by federal legislation titled the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
COBRA requires that individuals that lose their health insurance are entitled to continue to be covered under that health insurance plan up to three (3) years after losing the coverage. This applies to spouses that are losing their insurance coverage due to divorce.
However, COBRA also states that the individual will be responsible for the insurance coverage up to 102% of the cost of the plan. Health insurance premiums through COBRA are usually extremely expensive and many parties are unable to afford these premiums.
The area of health care law is changing rapidly under the new Health Care Reform Act passed by the federal government. It may be prudent to have your wife look into policies and coverage that will be afforded through these changes.
Also, if you are concerned about continuing health care coverage for your wife, you may want to consider a legal separation instead of a divorce. Often, insurance companies will continue to cover a spouse under a legal separation as the parties are not divorced.
A legal separation would allow the parties to separate their assets and live separate lives but may not affect the insurance coverage for your spouse.