Getting divorced is a life-changing event often complicated by concerns such as custody, spousal support, and, for at least one spouse, health insurance. While these are all part of getting a divorce, they don’t have to cause added undue stress. If you’re looking to get a divorce and concerned about health insurance due to your pre-existing conditions or lack of employer-sponsored health insurance, learning more about your health insurance options after a divorce will empower you to make the best decision.
What Benefits Can I Get if I Separate from My Spouse?
Many couples who amicably decide to get a divorce are hesitant to do so because they’d lose the health insurance benefits and rights that marriage brings. Filing for legal separation instead of divorce is an excellent option for couples like this. In a legal separation, you are still entitled to remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan.
Can Your Ex Stay on Your Health Insurance After Divorce?
If you access health insurance through your spouse’s plan, you will lose this coverage once you divorce. Once you get a divorce, your ex-spouse cannot stay on your health insurance plan, nor can you stay on theirs. For many couples, this can cause some worry, especially if one spouse has pre-existing conditions or doesn’t have an employer-sponsored health insurance option. However, you have two options: (1) Obtain COBRA coverage or (2) File for a legal separation instead of a divorce.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows workers and their family members to continue receiving group health benefits from their health plan for a limited time due to specific circumstances. Divorce is included among the possible reasons for COBRA coverage, and many plans let you get coverage under COBRA for up to 36 months following a divorce. COBRA is often more expensive than regular health insurance in the marketplace. So, it’s always a good idea to check how much the premiums would be prior to electing this option.
Legal separation is often favored by couples who wish to retain health insurance benefits but would like all the other aspects of a divorce. Couples who wish to legally separate must follow all the same procedures as filing for divorce. They must still divide assets and debts, including retirement accounts and real estate, and still make a decision on spousal maintenance. If there are minor children, a parenting plan, legal decision-making and child support must still be addressed as in a divorce. So, financially, there is virtually no difference between a legal separation or divorce in Arizona. So, other than for health insurance reasons, why would couples choose a legal separation? Get that question answered on this blog.
It is important to note that a legal separation is not the same as divorce. If you wish to remarry, you must file for divorce from your separated partner.
How to Address Health Insurance in a Divorce
If you still wish to divorce but are concerned about the cost of health insurance for your other spouse, there are some ways to address this in Mediation. Several of my mediation clients have chosen to include provisions where the spouse with the health insurance plan supplemented or paid in full the premiums for the other spouse to obtain private or marketplace insurance for a set period of time or until that spouse obtained employer-provided health insurance. This can also be considered spousal maintenance in some cases. There are also other options for addressing the costs of health insurance in the budget discussions we have in our mediation sessions.
Prepare for Your Divorce for Free
If you’re about to get a divorce or legal separation, the best thing you can do for yourself is be prepared. At Affordable Mediation, we have over 150 years of experience helping Arizona families through divorce. Download our FREE Divorce Preparation Checklist or call our office today to learn more about how you can get the most out of your divorce.