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What Does California Law Say About Health Insurance After Divorce?

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If you're going through a messy divorce in California, you're probably wondering whether you'll be able to keep your health insurance coverage after its finalization. After all, health insurance is tremendously expensive. If you're unable to remain covered under your ex-spouse's employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you might need to source health insurance coverage on the open market. Depending upon your health profile and the needs of your children, this may cost a substantial amount of money. Before you search for a new health insurance plan, you'll want to check with a seasoned divorce lawyer or health insurance expert to make sure that you're not eligible to remain covered.

In fact, there are certain circumstances under which you might be able to retain your ex-spouse's health insurance coverage. Under the applicable state and federal statutes, this "continuation of coverage" is liable to be temporary. However, many divorces result in an arrangement that requires the insured ex-spouse to issue regular cash payments to the uninsured ex-spouse in lieu of providing health insurance coverage indefinitely. Alternatively, the insured spouse may be compelled to set up and pay for a health insurance plan that covers the uninsured ex-spouse in perpetuity. If the uninsured ex-spouse remains the custodial parent after the divorce's finalization, this plan will almost certainly cover his or her children as well.

In other words, California law makes it likely that you'll be able to retain health insurance coverage after your divorce. However, the process of establishing and paying for such coverage can be extremely tricky. For this reason, many Californian divorce lawyers advise their clients to initiate legal separation proceedings at least one year before beginning divorce proceedings. Once a legal separation order has been handed down, it's far easier for two partners to work out the continuation of health insurance benefits on equal footing.

Once the separation is official, you'll need to determine whether you'll be eligible for federal COBRA coverage. COBRA permits certain qualifying ex-spouses to remain covered by their former partners' health insurance plans for up to 18 months from the date of their divorce. However, COBRA benefits are subject to numerous limitations. They may also be far more expensive than the benefits that they replace. If you're not sure whether opting for COBRA coverage is a good idea, you should talk to your divorce lawyer. It's possible that he or she may be able to work out a deal that requires your ex-spouse to pay for a portion of your COBRA benefits.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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