Who Pays for Health Insurance Following a New York Divorce?

One of the most critical and often overlooked issues in a New York divorce is how the parties will obtain health insurance. Many families, especially those with only one working partner, rely on health insurance benefits that are obtained through the working party’s employer. However, in the event a couple divorces, those insurance benefits will no longer be available to the non-working spouse and arrangements will have to be made to provide for their health insurance.

One option a non-working spouse has to obtain health insurance after a divorce is to obtain COBRA benefits. COBRA is a federal law that requires insurance companies to extend coverage to qualifying beneficiaries in the event of a qualifying event. Commonly, COBRA benefits are offered to an employee when their position is terminated; however, COBRA benefits are also available for spouses after a divorce.

One downside of COBRA benefits is that they can be quite costly because the employer will no longer be covering any of the cost. Thus, determining how each spouse will obtain health insurance benefits and how those benefits will be paid for is often a contested issue.

Of course, when the parties can agree on the issue of health insurance, the parties’ agreement will prevail as long as it is fair. However, if the parties cannot come to a mutually acceptable agreement, then a New York family court has the power to decide the issue. Under New York Domestic Relations Law section 236(B), a court can order a party to “purchase, maintain, or assign a policy of insurance providing benefits for health and hospital care and related services for either spouse or children of the marriage.” A court can also require a spouse obtain a life insurance policy on their own life, naming the former spouse as a beneficiary, to protect the former spouse’s interest in future benefits.

Of course, the period for which a court can require a party to pay for the health insurance of a former spouse is limited. Generally, the period must be fixed in duration, and cannot exceed the length of spousal-maintenance or child-support payments.  Often, in my experience, each party is responsible for their own health insurance following a divorce.  An argument is usually made that maintenance payments and the parties’ own income should be used to take care of their own health insurance.  However, as the statute states, it is possible for a court to order it under the criteria set forth.

Often, the spouse that is required to pay for a former spouse’s health insurance will choose to obtain these benefits through COBRA. However, under New York case law, a spouse obligated to pay for health insurance benefits of a former spouse will not be relieved of that duty if they are no longer eligible for COBRA benefits. This could result in a spouse being required to pay substantially more for insurance benefits than anticipated.

Are You Going Through a New York Divorce?

If you are currently separated from your spouse and considering filing for a New York divorce, contact the Law and Mediation Offices of Darren M. Shapiro. Many complicated and often unanticipated issues can arise throughout the process of a New York divorce proceeding. Having a dedicated and experienced New York family law advocate by your side can make what is always a difficult time much smoother and less complex. To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Shapiro to discuss your situation, call 516-333-6555 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Other Blog Posts:

Are Children Required to Comply with New York Visitation Orders?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, October 12, 2018

Is Business Income Factored into a New York Court’s Post-Divorce Maintenance Award?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, August 10, 2018