Divorce Myth #9* – I can remain on my spouse’s medical insurance after divorce
It is not uncommon in marriages for one spouse to maintain the medical insurance for the entire family. Sometimes one spouse just has better and/or cheaper coverage. Sometimes one spouse is not working or has employment that does not provide medical insurance as a benefit. Regardless of the reason, the issue of medical insurance must be dealt with as part of a divorce.
Generally speaking, medical insurance is provided to eligible dependents of the subscriber. Who meets the definition of an eligible dependent is established by the provider. In this article we are starting from the assumption that the subscriber has an employee & spouse or an employee & family policy. The most important point to make is that, pursuant to law, once a Judgment of Divorce is entered, the non-subscribing spouse will no longer be a dependent and, as such, can not remain on their former spouse’s policy. Eligible dependent children can remain post-divorce but not the ex-spouse.
This reality creates issues for the non-dependent ex-spouse. If this person can obtain their own medical insurance through their employer then this would be the best case scenario. Likely there would be a cost for this insurance. But, if this person is not working or does not have access to medical insurance as part of their income, they are looking at obtaining their own individual policy. This is an expensive undertaking. Accepting COBRA benefits to remain on the ex-spouse’s insurance is a temporary and expensive option. Unless the parties agree otherwise as part of their negotiated settlement agreement, the ex-spouse will not be required to automatically fund this new insurance policy regardless of employment status of either party.
There are two mechanisms that could be utilized to specifically address this medical insurance situation. First, the parties could elect to either enter into a Separation Agreement but not file for divorce and/or they could file a complaint for separate maintenance rather than a complaint for divorce. Under either situation the parties could resolve certain issues and live separate and apart but not be divorced. In proceeding in such a manner the dependent spouse could remain on the subscriber’s medical insurance. Issues concerning the pros and cons of proceeding in this fashion are best saved for a different article.
Second, the parties could file a complaint for limited divorce from bed and board which is provided for pursuant to statute. In these cases the parties would resolve their issues akin to a "regular" divorce complaint but they would not be able to re-marry unless they first applied to convert the limited divorce from bed and board to an absolute judgment of divorce. In some cases proceeding in this fashion will allow for the dependent spouse to remain on the subscriber’s medical insurance policy. I say some cases because there are an increasing number of insurance providers who are not honoring limited divorces from bed and board and are instead taking the position that it is a divorce and that the insurance must stop for the non-subscriber. It is recommended that you check with the provider before proceeding in this fashion.
*This is the ninth article in a ten part series exploring the most common myths concerning divorce law in New Jersey.
All of the attorneys at Domers & Bonamassa are well versed and have years of experience addressing family law issues, no matter how complicated. Contact us today at (856) 596-2888 for a private consultation. We appear in the following counties: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Mercer, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May. Our practice areas include: divorce, custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, domestic violence, college expenses, equitable distribution, name changes, step parent adoptions, paternity issues, child abuse and neglect, prenuptial agreements, mediation and arbitration.
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