The effect a divorce has on a family in Virginia can be both emotional and financial. Family health insurance is one such concern. Everyone may have been covered under one spouse's plan through their employer. The other partner may not have their own coverage, listed as a dependent instead. Coverage for children is very important, too, leading to many questions and uncertainty. Take the time to understand what happens to family health insurance during and after a divorce in Virginia.
What Happens While a Divorce Is Pending?
In many cases, the health insurance policy of one spouse can cover the whole family. Everyone else is listed as a dependent. Regardless of which spouse served the papers, coverage usually remains unchanged while the divorce is still pending.
How long a divorce takes to finalize can vary based on a number of factors. If there are a lot of family assets to divide, negotiations can be especially lengthy. Child custody battles are common in divorce proceedings too. While this is happening, everyone in the family should continue to be covered exactly as they were before. The insured spouse cannot remove anyone from their policy while the divorce is still pending.
Family Health Insurance After a Divorce
After a divorce is finalized, former spouses are no longer legally related. The spouse who was formerly listed as a dependent will have to be removed from the policy. The insured spouse keeps their plan. However, they must inform their employer and the insurer to remove the dependent spouse from their coverage.
What this means, then, is that the dependent spouse may need to look for health coverage on their own. The three main options to consider are:
- Health insurance at their own job. If their employer offers company health insurance coverage, they may opt into a plan after a divorce. Since divorce counts as a life-changing event, they can sign up for health insurance outside of the usual open enrollment period. The window to sign up is usually around 30 days after the date of the divorce. Speak with human resources for details. And consult with a skilled Virginia lawyer for legal advice.
- Temporary COBRA coverage. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), a person can keep their ex-spouse’s policy for up to 36 months. They have up to 60 days after the divorce to notify the insurer. The catch is that the employer will not subsidize this additional coverage, so they need to pay the full premium for the plan.
- Private health insurance. Most people get their health coverage from their employers. Private policies can be very pricey, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. Collect rate quotes for how much coverage may cost you as a newly single divorcee and factor in these costs when you negotiate for spousal support and alimony.
Who Pays for the Children’s Health Insurance?
If a couple has children, divorce can affect their health insurance coverage too. Unlike the dependent spouse, dependent children can stay on the insured spouse’s policy. After a divorce, the children are still their dependents. But, the continuation of their coverage should not be presumed.
Who carries the children’s health insurance and who pays for it can be decided as part of the child support agreement. This goes hand-in-hand with child custody considerations too. The Virginia Child Support Guidelines Worksheet is used to calculate the amount of child support payments. If the dependent spouse opts for COBRA coverage, the children may be included too.
Get the Guidance of a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney
When children are part of the equation, divorces can quickly become very complicated affairs. They can be very emotionally charged. One of the bigger concerns you may have is taking care of the family’s health insurance. It is crucial to consult with a compassionate attorney who specializes in family law. A skilled lawyer can help explain your options.