FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-13
When considering divorce, one of many questions that will need to be answered is, "Will I lose my healthcare coverage and, if I do lose it, what are my options?" There are many options to consider; your divorce attorney can explain what's available to you based on your situation.
For spouses that maintain coverage under their own employer-provided health care plans, there may be little change upon divorce. If there are children of the marriage, one piece of the child support puzzle will be determining who should maintain health insurance for the kids. The extra cost of insurance for the children can then be factored into how much should be paid each month in child support.
If you are working but had previously declined health insurance coverage under your employer's plan because you were covered under your spouse's plan, divorce is typically considered a major life event that will qualify you to change your insurance coverage. Many companies require employees to enroll in a group health insurance plan within a certain time from the date of hire or during designated annual enrollment periods. Divorce should get you around these specific timeframes for choosing insurance coverage and allow you to continue under your employer's, rather than your spouse's, insurance plan.
Maintaining Benefits Under A Spouse's Plan After Divorce — COBRA Benefits
Once a divorce is finalized, your eligibility for health insurance coverage under your spouse's plan typically ends unless you elect continuing coverage under COBRA. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows an ex-spouse to maintain health care coverage under a former spouse's employer's plan for up to 36 months after divorce. COBRA requirements apply to companies with 20 or more employees.
Your spouse must notify his or her employer of the divorce in order to change the health insurance coverage that was previously elected. Once notified, your spouse's employer must notify you of your right to elect COBRA continuation coverage. You have 60 days to determine whether you want to continue coverage under COBRA or decline it. Health care for children of the marriage should not be affected by a divorce; the working parent should be able to continue or elect coverage under an employer's plan that includes coverage for the children.
Paying For COBRA Coverage After Divorce — Support Or Alimony
The cost of COBRA coverage will likely be more than what was paid during the marriage. Even though COBRA requires companies to offer this coverage to former spouses of employees, companies are not required to subsidize the premiums. An employer can charge up to 102 percent of the plan costs for COBRA continuation coverage. The change in health care costs is another issue that your divorce attorney can discuss with you, including whether or not spousal support or alimony should be requested to help cover the additional costs of COBRA coverage.
In order to qualify for post-separation support or alimony in North Carolina, you must be considered a dependent of your spouse. Not all divorcing couples will have the option of requesting alimony because of the eligibility criteria. To be considered a dependent of your spouse, your own income and resources must be inadequate to meet your reasonable needs and your spouse must have the ability to pay support. Your current income, your ability to earn an income, your current standard of living and any existing debt are all factors that are considered when determining dependency.
Questions About Continuing Health Care Coverage After Divorce?
After divorce, many pieces of your life will change. But, health care coverage doesn't have to be one of them. A divorce attorney in your area can help you choose what option is best for you: an employee-sponsored plan from your own employer, COBRA continuation coverage under your ex-spouse's plan or some other option.