Health coverage gets its share of media attention on its own. But, what happens when you make a decision to split from your spouse? The law has certain mandates concerning health insurance and divorce. You may need answers concerning coverage during your divorce and after the final decree is signed.
First and foremost, just because you’ve separated from your spouse doesn’t give you the authority to remove anyone from your health coverage. A significant number of families receive health insurance as an employment benefit. You can’t just run into your human resources department and demand termination of your spouse’s coverage.
Separation and Health Insurance
There might be a temptation to arbitrarily remove your spouse or children from your health insurance policy. Although you might feel your soon to be ex’s action justify retaliation, it’s not permissible under the law. The filing of a divorce complaint doesn’t give you the option either.
The New Jersey Court Rules contain specific language regarding divorce and insurance. According to Rule 5:4-2, every first pleading in a divorce matter must be accompanied by an Affidavit or Certification of Insurance Coverage. This would mean that both the plaintiff’s complaint seeking divorce and the defendant’s answer to the complaint must have this documentation.
Affidavit or Certification of Insurance Coverage
Your attorney will prepare the affidavit or certification of insurance coverage based on the information you provide. Documentation must be presented concerning all policies impacting both spouses and children. This includes not only health insurance coverage but also life insurance. The existence of automobile and homeowner’s insurance policies must also be asserted.
During the pendency of the divorce, the parties are not permitted to make changes regarding insurance coverage. The rule explicitly states that “insurance coverage identified in the affidavit shall be maintained pending further order of the court.”
There are also statutory requirements that prohibit one spouse removing another from an insurance policy. NJSA 2A:34-23d specifies that the parties “shall continue to maintain or continue to share in the cost of maintaining the coverage.” If there is a change of circumstances that result in termination of coverage, the court must be notified.
Health Insurance after the Divorce
Most people don’t have to worry about losing health coverage until the divorce is over. There might be a temptation to attempt to stay on the policy afforded by your former spouse’s employer. Even if your ex would agree to such an arrangement, it is not permissible by law. Family coverage is intended for family members. A divorce changes that status.
What about health insurance for your children? If you and your spouse both have jobs that offer family health benefits, you may look at the options and decide which coverage is more affordable and the better option. This can be negotiated during the divorce settlement.
What about the spouse who may suddenly be without health coverage? Divorce is considered a qualifying event for coverage outside the standard enrollment periods. If you work for a company that offers health insurance, your human resources department may help you sign up.
Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the spouse losing coverage may temporarily pay for coverage under the same type of policy afforded by their ex’s employer. NJSA 17B:27A-27 also contains language concerning insurance continuation for divorced family members.
An experienced family law attorney can help you with your choices. There may be the opportunity to include health insurance premiums as part of the negotiation process. Some people may look into individual policies or those available under the Affordable Care Act.