In these current times, health insurance coverage has become a major concern for most individuals. For couples, one of the greatest benefits of marriage is the family coverage provided by one or both spouses’ health insurance. Spouses considering divorce often question what will happen with their health insurance during and after their divorce.
HEALTH COVERAGE FOR SPOUSE DURING DIVORCE
In general, there is no Georgia statute that prohibits one spouse from terminating health care coverage for the other spouse under his/her plan. However, many jurisdictions have automatic domestic standing orders, which take effect upon the filing of a divorce. These automatic domestic standing orders often contain provisions that parties to a divorce action cannot terminate health insurance coverage for the other spouse while the divorce is pending. If a court does not have a standing order, or if the court’s automatic domestic standing order doesn’t prohibit cancellation of coverage, or if a party suspects that his/her spouse will cancel coverage in violation of the automatic domestic standing order, then a party can always petition the court for an order prohibiting his/her spouse from terminating health insurance coverage. However, parties who must seek assistance from the court should act quickly because it is very difficult to have coverage reinstated once it is terminated.
HEALTH COVERAGE FOR SPOUSE AFTER DIVORCE
After divorce, a spouse cannot be required to maintain health insurance for a spouse under a particular plan. If the other spouse wants to continue coverage under his/her ex-spouse’s plan, he/she will have to seek coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) within 60 days after the divorce is finalized. COBRA is not a permanent option, as coverage only lasts for a maximum of 36 months. Also, coverage under COBRA may be cost-prohibitive, as it requires full payment of plan premiums. For an alternative to COBRA, the other spouse can seek coverage through an individual plan. Spouses can visit www.healthcare.gov for information regarding individual plan options. Under some circumstances, courts may order one spouse to maintain an individual plan for the other spouse or assist with COBRA payments. Courts may also take into consideration the recipient spouse’s health insurance expense when calculating the amount of alimony. Since there is no guarantee that a spouse will be awarded alimony or that the other spouse will be required to maintain an individual insurance plan/COBRA coverage for him/her, parties who are covered through their spouse’s health insurance plan would be well-advised to begin exploring health insurance options as soon as possible during the divorce process.
If you have questions about health insurance coverage and divorce, contact an experienced divorce/family law attorney at The Faucette Law Firm (770) 485-6620.