Health Insurance Coverage After Divorce

Posted on Mar 15, 2019 by Katie Carter

Health insurance coverage post-divorce is one of the things that I often see that keeps people married for long after they want to be. I have plenty of cases sitting on my shelf where we’ve negotiated a separation agreement but the parties ultimately decide not to finalize the divorce because they’re receiving health care coverage. When no one has met anyone else and the rest of the details are more or less ironed out, it often doesn’t really feel like there’s any need to finalize the divorce. There’s no right or wrong way to do these things, after all.

The biggest thing about health insurance is that he really can’t maintain you on his policy after divorce. You can only insure people who are family members, and a divorce (as strange as it may sound to say) means that you and he become legal strangers. It’s not because he’s a jerk, but because the insurance companies don’t just allow you to insure whomever you choose.

If you have your own employer sponsored health insurance policy

If you can’t stay on an employer sponsored health insurance policy, obtaining health insurance becomes an even more difficult proposition. If you have the option to switch to your own employer-sponsored policy, that’s easy. Divorce is one of those “triggering” events, so you can enroll even outside of an open enrollment period. There will be come cost to you, depending on your employer and the terms it has negotiated with your insurance carrier, but finding and obtaining a policy won’t be too difficult.

If you’re 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 (for military spouses)

Otherwise, though, you’ll have to look into other options. For military spouses, if you’re 20/20/15 (meaning that you’ve been married for at least twenty years, that he has served at least twenty years in the military, and at least fifteen of the years married and years in the military have overlapped), you can qualify to receive your TriCare coverage for a year after the entry of the final divorce decree. If you’re 20/20/20 (meaning that you’ve been married for at least twenty years, that he has served at least twenty years in the military, and at least twenty of those years have overlapped), you can receive TriCare permanently and take on retired military status on your own.

Is there 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 coverage for civilians under other employer sponsored health insurance policies?

No. This is entirely something that the military has created. For civilians, regardless of employment, there is no such protection regardless of the length of your marriage or his time in service with a company. After divorce, you will not be eligible to remain on his health insurance policy.

What are my other health insurance options?

There are options for non-employer sponsored health insurance policies, but they’re notoriously pretty expensive. You can look into private health insurance (where you’re basically on your own independent plan) or government-sponsored programs like COBRA, and Medicare, once you’re of a certain age. Get some quotes, and see what’s available for you.

You may be limited by pre-existing conditions, too, but I think it’s a good idea to do the research BEFORE you enter into a separation agreement or go to court for final disposition of your divorce. This is information we need to have. The more information you have, the more educated you can be when you negotiate or litigate your divorce. The cost of health insurance is something that a judge could consider, or that your soon to be ex may be swayed by in negotiations.

Can I get him to pay for my health insurance coverage after divorce?

This is a tricky question. The answer is, though – probably not. Unless he agrees to provide your insurance coverage after divorce (which he probably won’t do), the judge won’t order that he has to pay for it. Or, at least, I think it so unlikely as to be virtually impossible that the judge would order him to do it.

What the judge MIGHT do, though, is consider the cost of health insurance in your award of spousal support. It’s one of those things that you should put on that income and expense sheet your attorney has probably already talked to you about (and, if not, you should talk to an attorney about this as soon as you can). It’s certainly a relevant consideration when it comes to determining how much support you’ll need to survive. (And that’s also why I say – get that information NOW!)

Will I get spousal support?

Maybe. But that’s really beyond the scope of this article. I’ve written a lot of pretty good (if I do say so myself) articles about spousal support so you can kind of begin to determine whether you might qualify – try this one , this one, and this one to get started.  It’s actually a longer article done in three parts that covers most of what you need to know about spousal support.  Oh, and add this one, too — it covers changes to the law in 2019.

Really, though, there’s no substitute for talking to an attorney and running some guideline calculations. Of course, there’s no BINDING guideline on our courts here in Hampton Roads/Tidewater, but a guideline can certainly give you a benchmark and a place to begin negotiations. Fill out that income and expense sheet, too, so you can get an idea of your income and liabilities – including the estimated future cost of health insurance!

I know it’s scary, and when you’re talking about scary things it’s easy to be that proverbial ostrich and bury your head in the sand. It’s not a good idea when it comes to divorce, though. It’s best to be as prepared as possible, so that, when it all goes down, you’ll have all the information to make the best arguments and get the best possible result in your divorce case. Knowledge is power, you know – even if it’s scary, too.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.