How Does Divorce Affect Health Insurance?

During a divorce or legal separation, there are many considerations to keep in mind, like child custody, property division, and alimony/spousal support – but what about your health insurance?

Many couples forget to take into account the ramifications of divorce on their health insurance. Learning how your health insurance is affected by California divorce laws will help you be better prepared, both while going through the process of divorce or legal separation and for steps you may need to take after your divorce or legal separation is finalized.

Can One Spouse Terminate The Other’s Health Insurance During Divorce Or Separation Proceedings?

In many marriages, one spouse is covered by a health insurance policy that the other spouse receives through his or her job. This coverage extends to both the spouse and children, and during a divorce, the spouse who relies on that health insurance risks gaps in their coverage.

However, when a California divorce case is filed, immediate Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) are issued. ATROs are provided for under Family Code section 2040(a)(3) and they affect both parties’ health insurance policies in their ability to cancel coverage and change the beneficiaries of that insurance policy. That means one spouse may not remove the other from the policy or alter coverage, especially if the policy is employment-related coverage. These restraining orders protect the spouse and any dependents from gaps in coverage until final judgment in the case is granted.

If I’m On My Spouse’s Health Insurance, What Happens To My Coverage After The Divorce Or Separation Is Final?

The ex-spouse is no longer considered a “family member” under California family law, which means you will lose dependent status under your spouse or partner’s health insurance and will no longer be eligible for coverage under that plan. This means you may suffer a gap in coverage. It’s possible, under Family Code §2051, to continue your existing health insurance after divorce if negotiated and agreed upon during divorce proceedings. Azemika & Azemika Law can help you navigate this process. 

Children, however, remain legal “family members” and are therefore unaffected by changes in health insurance coverage unless the spouse with the insurance policy loses all parental rights.

What Protections Or Options Are Available Once I’m No Longer A Dependent On My Spouse’s Health Insurance?

In some cases, the insured spouse may be ordered to make a payment to the uninsured spouse specifically for health insurance coverage. This is more common if the uninsured ex-spouse is the custodial parent of a minor(s).

For a limited period of time (usually 18 months), the uninsured spouse may retain health insurance coverage through COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA requires health insurance plans to offer continuation coverage under specific circumstances that would otherwise result in termination or reduction of plan benefits. This can give you enough time to secure your own health insurance plan without suffering a coverage gap. Your spouse’s employer is not required to subsidize your insurance, but they can charge you 102 percent of the cost. This is obviously quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to shop around marketplaces like Covered California for equivalent individual coverage through another plan.

If you do choose COBRA coverage, you can stay on that plan for up to three years if your former spouse or partner continues to work at the company and certain other conditions are met.

Some state and federal laws offer additional protection of health insurance benefits. Azemika & Azemika Law can help you find the best option to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Are My Responsibilities If I Have To Remove My Spouse From My Health Insurance Policy?

If your insurance policy will no longer provide your ex-spouse’s health insurance after divorce or separation, you are responsible for notifying the plan administrator within 60 days after the date of entry of judgment of your divorce or legal separation.

How Does Legal Separation In California Affect Health Insurance?

Some couples choose legal separation instead of dissolution of marriage in order to avoid one spouse losing health insurance coverage. However, most health insurance plans treat legal separation in California the same as dissolution of marriage, meaning that one partner is no longer considered the dependent of the other for the purposes of health insurance coverage.

If your partner has a government health insurance plan, you may be able to remain a dependent, but this must be confirmed with the plan. If you do find yourself facing a coverage gap, COBRA, as discussed above, is an option for continuing health insurance coverage after separation is finalized.

Azemika & Azemika Law Is Here To Help You

Azemika & Azemika Law specializes solely in California family law services. Over the past 22 years, our partners have successfully handled the most difficult and high asset family law cases in Kern County. Our Bakersfield divorce lawyers can help you navigate California divorce laws to protect your financial stability and your loved ones. Don’t let stress and uncertainty over your future health insurance coverage add to the already difficult emotional toll of this phase. Let Azemika & Azemika help you find customized solutions to every aspect of your divorce case, including how health insurance coverage is handled, and set you on a path to a better future. Contact us today online or by calling (661) 322-8166

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