Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

Am I Responsible For My Spouse’s Healthcare After Divorce?

There is a lot to consider during a divorce, including sharing custody of children, the equal distribution of your marital assets, and deciding which spouse retains the family home. Sometimes other spouses overlook important details until later in the process. One such detail divorcing spouses don’t always consider until the end of the divorce process is how the divorce impacts their healthcare coverage when one spouse is the healthcare provider through a family plan. Does one spouse remain responsible for the other’s healthcare coverage after the divorce?

Never Cancel Your Spouse’s Healthcare Benefits During the Divorce Process

No matter how great the degree of rancor and contention during the divorce, it’s critical to continue your spouse’s healthcare coverage throughout the entire divorce process. All states require spouses to continue providing existing healthcare benefits during separation, after filing for divorce, and throughout the divorce proceedings until finalization. Automatic temporary restraining orders come into effect during divorce in order to prevent one spouse from financially damaging the other. This restraining order prevents one spouse from removing their coverage until the divorce becomes final. Canceling a spouse’s healthcare benefits may result in contempt of court charges. It also leaves you responsible for paying any healthcare expenses if your spouse requires medical treatment.

The requirement to continue providing benefits until the finalization of the divorce allows time for the other spouse to find alternative healthcare coverage through their employer or through a government healthcare plan.

What Happens When the Divorce Becomes Final?

Once the court finalizes the divorce, health insurance plans do not cover an ex-spouse. Once divorced, the state no longer considers a spouse part of the insurance holder’s family and insurers will not cover a non-family member. Children remain family members, so their coverage continues after the divorce. Only in relatively rare instances when a parent loses their parental rights during a divorce due to child abuse or neglect does the providing parent’s healthcare coverage cease covering the children.

COBRA Plans and Spousal Support

While a healthcare-providing spouse cannot continue providing coverage for an ex-spouse after divorce, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) mandates that employers continue to provide coverage temporarily for a person losing their healthcare benefits, including when an employee is a healthcare provider for spouse and they divorce. COBRA allows an ex-spouse to retain their benefits for up to 36 months after the divorce as long as they pay the premiums. Unfortunately, COBRA premiums are expensive because the employer no longer contributes their share of the premium. In some cases, a judge may require a spouse to pay spousal support to the other after the divorce in order to contribute to their COBRA coverage.

What Happens to Healthcare Coverage During a Legal Separation?

Some spouses choose legal separation rather than divorce precisely because of the divorce’s impact on the other spouse’s healthcare coverage. While a person cannot cover an ex-spouse through their own insurance, legal separation isn’t the same as a finalized divorce. It’s legal for separated spouses to continue to provide coverage for the other indefinitely as long as they are legally separated but remain married.

Divorcing spouses should always consider the impact of the divorce on their healthcare coverage and speak to their Huntington Beach divorce attorneys about their options.