All types of contracts come with expiration dates. That said, marriage is not one of them. In fact, despite disagreements within the partnership, many couples stay together. Sometimes, it’s for the “sake of the kids” or religious convictions. Meanwhile, you may hesitate to void the marital contract for another reason. Are you concerned about how divorce will impact your health insurance?
More than likely, you already know New Jersey law requires you to maintain health insurance. Frankly, compliance might be the least of your concerns. Instead, your reality knows that lack of healthcare coverage represents a potential disaster. It could rob you of your health and pocketbook.
Consider this as part of a typical first meeting with a New Jersey divorce lawyer. The husband owns a construction business; the wife works as a professor for a local state college. As such, the whole family receives state health benefits.
As a business owner, the husband knows quite a bit about the high cost of insurance. He insists the divorce will be amicable. His wife agrees that he should stay on her health benefits.
One problem. Once the couple divorce, they are no longer legally related. Therefore, despite the best of intentions, the husband cannot remain covered by insurance provided by his former wife’s employer.
Staying in a bad marriage for health insurance adds undue stress. For someone with chronic health issues, it could be even more painful.
Divorce Process and Health Insurance
You should know that you don’t have to run out and search for health insurance just because you and your spouse separate. During the divorce process itself, you should remain covered.
According to NJSA 2A: 34-23(d), the mere filing for divorce does not negate a spouse’s entitlement to continuing health benefits. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The law says:
“...the party who has maintained all existing insurance coverage or coverage traditionally maintained during the marriage or civil union, including but not limited to, all health, disability, home or life insurance, shall continue to maintain or continue to share in the cost of maintaining the coverage.”
Your health insurance should remain intact during the divorce process. However, if your spouse becomes unemployed or ineligible for benefits, there are notice requirements.
The reality could be different. Ignorance of the law or revenge could result in a lapse in your coverage. You should immediately notify your attorney if you discover you were removed from an insurance plan prior to your final divorce.
Health Insurance After the Divorce
After the divorce, you’ll need to explore your options regarding health benefits. One option concerns the continuation of coverage through COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
As a divorced spouse, you become entitled to COBRA coverage from the group health plan that gave you benefits during your marriage. Here’s how it works:
- Within 60 days, your former spouse must notify the insurance company of your divorce
- The healthcare carrier must provide notice to you within 14 days and offer you COBRA
- For up to 36 months, you may subscribe to COBRA continuation coverage
Truth be told, COBRA often represents an expensive means of continuing health coverage. You, therefore, may want to check other options. If you are employed by a company that offers health benefits, that may be your first consideration.
Meanwhile, if neither of these options works, you may need to look into private insurance or plans available under the Affordable Care Act. You should do your homework before the divorce concludes, as these numbers relate to your expenses once you are no longer a couple.