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How to Update Your Insurance Plans After Divorce

No matter how you slice it, insurance is complicated – and it becomes infinitely more complicated when you’re in the midst of a divorce. Are you losing your health insurance due to divorce? Do you want advice on how to get health insurance after divorce? Feeling confused by the complexities of life insurance after divorce? In this article, we address the insurance-related concerns a divorcing person may face.

Health insurance after divorce

In some marriages, the spouse with better insurance coverage insures both individuals as well as any dependents. In other marriages, one spouse is a stay-at-home parent or part-time worker who does not get their own benefits. Therefore, they obtain their coverage through the spouse with insurance.

Regardless of the marital situation, a spouse who is not a primary policyholder loses their health care coverage after divorce. 

If you lose your coverage, you have several health insurance options after divorce. These options include employer-sponsored health insurance, private insurance through the national health exchange, medicare, TRICARE, and COBRA.

Employer-sponsored health insurance

If your employer offers health insurance, your divorce qualifies as a life event that allows you to enroll in benefits. This is true even if the current calendar does not reflect an open enrollment period.

An employer-sponsored health insurance plan might be the most affordable option, but you should check with your employer to learn what types of benefits are available and the estimated monthly premiums before selecting this option.

Private health insurance

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all Americans who do not have insurance available through their employer or a spouse’s employer can apply for insurance coverage through the health insurance marketplace. 

To apply for health care coverage after divorce, visit HealthCare.gov. Typically, you must enroll at the marketplace within 30 days of your qualifying event – your divorce.

Medicare

If you are 65 or older, you may qualify for Medicare after your divorce. To do so, your former spouse must be at least 62 years old, and your marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years. 

You may also qualify for Medicare if you meet other eligibility requirements. It's a good idea to talk to an expert if you have questions or doubts about this option.

TRICARE

TRICARE is a health insurance program for active military, retirees, and their family members. If you or your former spouse served in the military, you may be able to qualify for or maintain your TRICARE benefits after your divorce is finalized. 

If you were the one who served in the military, your divorce will count as a qualifying life event that lets you enroll or change your TRICARE benefits within 90 days of the divorce. If your former spouse served in the military, you may still qualify for TRICARE benefits. However, this health insurance for divorced military spouses is only available to you if your spouse served for at least 20 years, you were married for at least 20 years, and your marriage overlapped with their military service for at least 15 years.

COBRA

Thanks to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, individuals and families are eligible to remain on an employer-sponsored health insurance plan for a limited period of time after a qualifying event like divorce. 

In the case of divorce, you can remain on your current health insurance plan for up to 36 months. However, you may have to pay up to 102% of the premium fees. This makes COBRA one of the more expensive health insurance options after divorce.

Request health insurance in a divorce settlement

Depending on the income differential between you and your former spouse, you may be able to ask for health insurance in your divorce settlement. 

For example, you might ask for your spouse to cover your COBRA payments or private health insurance costs for a set amount of time. If you have children, you could work out an agreement for their health insurance coverage as well.

Life insurance after divorce

In addition to getting health insurance after divorce, life insurance may be a new concern. Like health insurance, life insurance after divorce is a tricky subject. Many people have questions about it, especially in situations that involve children.

Is life insurance still valid after divorce?

Life insurance is often considered a financial asset. Therefore, most life insurance policies have a stated policyholder as well as a beneficiary who will receive a payout in the event of the policyholder’s death. 

Married couples typically name each other as beneficiaries. In some cases, the spouses are named as co-owners.

Some divorcing couples incorrectly assume that their divorce nullifies these entitlements. In most cases, that’s not true. In fact, most life insurance policies remain “as is” until one or both spouses makes changes to these policies.

Options for life insurance after divorce

When you finalize a divorce, you have several options regarding life insurance. If you do not have children, you are under no obligation to have life insurance. Additionally, you do not need to list your ex as a beneficiary after you finalize your divorce. In some cases, couples choose to cash out whole life insurance policies upon separation and split the proceeds.

Notably, if you have children and are ordered to pay child support or alimony, you may be required to maintain a life insurance policy with your ex as the stated beneficiary. However, even if you aren’t required to do this, you may still want to do this for the sake of your children

Inversely, if you are the one receiving child or spousal support, you may want to invest in a life insurance policy for your ex. Why? So you can continue to receive benefits upon their death. Doing so would require your ex’s consent, but they may be willing to do this if you agree to pay the premiums.

Changing policy owners and beneficiaries

Life insurance policies cannot be changed once you die. Therefore, it’s important to keep these policies up-to-date as much as possible throughout your life. This means you may need to verify who owns your policy and update the named beneficiary once your divorce is finalized.

The owner of a life insurance policy is the person who controls the policy. This means they can make changes to the policy, including the named beneficiaries, at any time. The owner of the policy isn’t necessarily the insured individual, so you should verify who owns any life insurance policies under your name during the divorce process. If your soon-to-be-ex owns the policy, you could ask them to transfer ownership to you during the divorce. This protects you from your ex making changes to the policy without your consent.

The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person who receives cash benefits upon the policyholder’s death. If you are the policyholder, you can change the beneficiary at any time. You may decide to name your child or another family member as the beneficiary after divorce.

Note: If you don’t change it and your ex is still the stated beneficiary upon your death, they will receive the payout.

FAQ about insurance after divorce

Can I keep my ex on my health insurance policy after the divorce?

No, unfortunately not. Legally, all health insurance policies end for spouses upon divorce.

Can a military spouse keep TRICARE after divorce?

Yes, TRICARE will still provide health insurance for divorced military spouses assuming their marriage and the military member meets TRICARE’s requirements.

How do I apply for COBRA after divorce?

To receive COBRA benefits through your spouse's policy, you must contact the plan administrator within 60 days of your divorce to enroll in coverage.

Can legally separated spouses stay on the same health insurance?

You’ll need to check with your insurance provider. Some health insurance providers treat legal separation the same as divorce. This means that legally separated spouses cannot remain on each other’s health insurance. Other times, legal separation is the closest thing to divorce that spouses can get if they want to remain on the shared plan.

Will my divorce affect our kids’ health insurance coverage?

Most of the time, judges account for the health insurance of children during divorce proceedings. Details regarding who is responsible for this insurance vary based on the family situation.