Many families are insured through an employer-sponsored health care plan provided by one spouse’s employer. When divorce becomes a reality, one spouse faces the prospect of losing health care coverage, an issue that causes a great deal of tension, particularly if children are involved. Questions about this topic are among the most common we receive at our Fort Worth, Arlington, and Keller / Alliance offices, so we wanted to share some basic information here on the blog that you may find helpful.
During the Divorce Process
Upon filing for a divorce in Texas, the judge has the power to issue various temporary orders that spell out the responsibilities of both spouses during the divorce proceedings. Typically, one of these orders will specifically address health care coverage.
In nearly all cases, the court will issue an order preventing one spouse from changing any health care arrangements while the divorce is ongoing. That means, for example, that a spouse cannot simply drop you from coverage in retaliation for your decision to file for divorce. These orders also prevent a spouse from making any changes affecting health care coverage for the children until the divorce is complete.
After the Divorce Is Complete
We’ll address coverage for children first. If the spouse who insured the family is the non-custodial parent after divorce, he or she can still be required to carry the children on his/her insurance, assuming he/she is still insured. A Qualified Medical Support Order (QMSO) can be obtained to enforce this obligation.
Coverage for ex-spouses is more complicated. To start with, good lawyers will often include in the divorce settlement a stipulation that the spouse who provided health coverage during the marriage will continue to do so for a set period of time after divorce. Absent such a stipulation, under Texas law the dependent spouse’s coverage automatically ends when the marriage ends.
COBRA becomes a key factor for the dependent spouse. COBRA allows a dependent spouse to remain on an ex-spouse’s health coverage for up to three years. To obtain this benefit, however, the dependent spouse must enroll in COBRA within 60 days of eligibility. Coverage is forfeited if this deadline is missed.
What if a Spouse Isn’t Eligible for COBRA?
Texas law allows people who aren’t COBRA-eligible or who have exhausted their COBRA benefits to use state-sponsored health care coverage. This is sometimes called “mini-COBRA.” Generally, the following rules apply:
If a dependent spouse isn’t eligible for COBRA, he or she can remain on the ex-spouse’s employer-provided plan for up to nine months
If a dependent spouse has exhausted COBRA coverage, he or she can obtain state-sponsored health coverage for six months after COBRA ends
Payments for Health Coverage
The responsibility for paying for premiums differs for every couple based on their specific situation and what arrangements they reach. Under most QMCSOs, premiums for children are deducted directly from the insured parent’s paycheck. Spouses using COBRA are usually responsible for their own premiums.
Learn More About Health Coverage and Divorce
Find out more about how your family’s health insurance could be affected by divorce by talking to an attorney in the Arlington office of The Schneider Law Firm. We’re ready to answer all your questions. Call 817.799.7125 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.