If your health insurance has been provided through your spouse’s employer and you are now getting a divorce…what’s next? Will you be able to keep your health insurance plan after your divorce is final, or should make other arrangements?
Unfortunately, given the state of insurance law in New Jersey, it is not possible for you to remain covered under your spouse’s policy after the divorce, because you will no longer be a legal relative of your spouse. But, you do have options in order to continue health insurance coverage post-divorce:
Continue Your Current Coverage Through COBRA
The Consolidated Ominbus Budget Reconciliation Act, more commonly known as COBRA, is the federal law that allows a husband or wife who is divorcing to remain on their spouse’s group health insurance policy for up to 36 months. A well-known negative of COBRA benefits, however, is the cost. In fact, you will be required to pay the entire insurance premium without the contribution of your spouse’s employer and that can be thousands of dollars a month. If it is financially possible, suggest that your soon-to-be ex pay for your COBRA payments until such time as you can obtain your own insurance or until the end of the 36 months, whichever happens first. This is especially helpful to disabled spouses who cannot obtain their own insurance through a job and may need to wait for other benefits to come through. It is important to avoid a gap in insurance coverage, especially if you are receiving continual medical care.
Obtain Your Own Insurance Through Your Job
It may seem simple, but many divorcing spouses do not consider their own employer-provided health care options, only because they never had to investigate it in the past. A majority of employers provide their employees at least some medical coverage as a perk of being their employee, although most provide the coverage for full-time employees. If you are a part-time worker and benefits are not available to part-timers at your job, consider requesting to become a full-time employee eligible for health benefits. Or, if you are getting back into the job market and are investigating new career opportunities, be sure that you are looking at companies that will provide you will benefits that are at least close to those you had through your spouse. Be aware, though that some employers do require a waiting period elapse before you become eligible for health insurance benefits.
Consider a Divorce from Bed and Board
A divorce from bed and board is a very old mechanism in the law that allows a couple to be “divorced” but only from “bed and board.” A divorce from bed and board is the closest we have in New Jersey to a formalized legal separation. You and your spouse remain legally married and neither of you can remarry and you both must agree to this arrangement. You no longer live together and the agreement that you make can serve to divide property and even discuss alimony or child support. But, you are not formally divorced and in order to become absolutely divorced down the road if you desire, one of you has to ask the court to convert your judgment. The perk, however, is that since you are technically still legally married, you would be free to remain on your spouse’s family health insurance plan unless and until the divorce from bed and board becomes converted into an absolute, traditional divorce.
Even with changes to the health care laws in the US, health insurance can still be a huge expense to some. Investigate all possibilities that may assist in helping you remain covered once you and your spouse are divorced. If you are self-employed or are unable to obtain insurance through your job, look into the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare.gov), also known as Obamacare.
If you have more questions about divorce or any other area of family law, contact our office to schedule your confidential consultation with one of our qualified and experienced family law attorneys.