New York State Health Insurance Rules When Getting a Divorce
By Heather Frances J.D.
New York does not require health insurers to provide health insurance for divorced spouses, so one spouse may lose health insurance when she divorces if she was covered by her husband’s plan. New York law even requires divorcing spouses to acknowledge they are aware they will no longer be allowed to receive health care coverage under a former spouse’s insurance plan once the divorce is final.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, allows a spouse who was formerly covered under her ex-husband’s plan to obtain coverage from the same insurance company. However, COBRA can be expensive since the spouse losing eligibility must pay the full amount of the premiums -- with no contributions from her former spouse’s employer. The spouse electing COBRA coverage must notify the health plan administrator no later than 60 days after the divorce is final, and coverage is only available for up to 36 months.
When New York courts calculate alimony payments, they don’t use a set formula. Instead, they consider a list of factors to determine whether alimony should be paid and, if so, how much is appropriate. One of the factors the court considers is one spouse’s loss of health insurance benefits because of the divorce and the cost of obtaining replacement insurance. Thus, a spouse may receive a higher alimony award if she loses health insurance coverage because of the divorce.
A couple’s marital settlement agreement or divorce decree can address the issue of health insurance, providing that one spouse purchase and maintain an individual insurance plan for the other spouse. The agreement or decree could also state one spouse must contribute a certain amount of money toward the other spouse’s individual plan or COBRA payments. In New York, health insurance payments from one spouse to the other can only extend for as long as the paying spouse is obligated to pay alimony or other award to the receiving spouse.
Children do not typically lose health insurance at divorce since they remain eligible as the child of either parent. New York statutes create an obligation for each parent to contribute to the cost of health insurance based on a prorated amount as part of the child support determination. If a noncustodial parent is required to pay health insurance for a child, he is only required to pay insurance costs as long as he is paying child support for that child.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.