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How to Ensure Health Insurance Coverage After a Divorce

Under New York State Domestic Relations Law , health insurance companies are not required to provide health care coverage for divorced spouses. This means that if you are covered  by your husband’s medical benefits, or vice versa, and one of you has filed for divorce, you may lose insurance coverage under your former spousea’s health insurance plan when your divorce has been finalized.

Once a divorce action has been filed, all parties will be notified by the Court of the New York State law regarding the effect of a finalized divorce on a party’s health insurance coverage provided by a spouse. According to Domestic Relations Law section 255, in finalizing a divorce a provision must be included in any stipulation or agreement between the parties which accounts for the future health care coverage for each party or the parties understanding of the effect the
divorce judgment will have upon their health insurance coverage. During the divorce action a Court may issue an order requiring the spouse providing the health care coverage for the parties and the parties’ children to maintain such coverage until a divorce judgment is signed. This law does not affect children’s eligibility for health care coverage. Children can be maintained under either parties health insurance despite the finalization of the divorce.

So, what are your options? Although you may not lose coverage until your divorce is finalized, health insurance coverage should be addressed early on in your divorce action to plan for coverage after your divorce. If you are covered by your spouse’s health insurance and your spouse works for a company that employs 20 or more people, you may be eligible to apply for continued health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer’s plan under the Federal Law known as “COBRA” or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. If this is the case, you will be required to an amount that does not exceed 102 percent of the applicable premium for that period. If your spouse’s company employs less than 20 people, New York State law still requires small employers to provide the equivalent of COBRA benefits. The monthly
cost to you is 102 percent of the actual cost to the employer. Either way, you are entitled to 36 months of continued health coverage under COBRA. At the end of the 36 month period, you will be required to obtain your own health care coverage.

If you plan on continuing coverage through COBRA, you or your spouse must notify the health insurance company representative within 60 days of the signed divorce judgment. Failing to provide proper notice could deem you ineligible for COBRA coverage. COBRA coverage can be expensive. You may want to explore the option and cost of obtaining health insurance through your own employer or a private individual plan. You may also want to find out whether or not you qualify for a public assistance program such as Medicaid. If you have questions regarding your divorce and your health insurance coverage you should consult with an experienced matrimonial lawyer.   DRL 255: Prerequisites for judgments under articles nine, ten and eleven of this chapter; healthcare coverage.

A court, prior to signing a judgment of divorce or separation, or a judgment annulling a marriage or declaring the nullity of a void marriage, shall ensure that:

1. Both parties have been notified, at such time and by such means as the court shall determine, that once the judgment is signed, a party thereto may or may not be eligible to be covered under the other party's health insurance plan, depending on the terms of the plan. Provided, however, service upon the defendant, simultaneous with the service of the summons, of a notice indicating that once the judgment is signed, a party thereto may or may not be eligible to be covered under
the other party's health insurance plan, depending on the terms of the plan, shall be deemed sufficient notice to a defaulting defendant.

2. If the parties have entered into a stipulation of settlement/agreement on or after the effective date of this section resolving all of the issues between the parties, such settlement/agreement entered into between the parties shall contain a provision relating to the health care coverage of each party; and that such provision shall either: (a) provide for the future coverage of each party, or (b) state that each party is aware that he or she will no longer be covered by the other party's health insurance plan and that each party shall be responsible for his or her own health insurance coverage, and may be entitled to purchase health insurance on his or her own through a COBRA option, if available. The requirements of this subdivision shall not be waived by either party or counsel and, in the event it is not complied with, the court shall require compliance and may grant a thirty day continuance to afford the parties an opportunity to procure their own health insurance coverage.