Insurance Between Filing & Divorce

by Beverly Bird
Courts generally require that you maintain your family's coverage during divorce.

Courts generally require that you maintain your family's coverage during divorce.

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When you file for divorce, most state courts immediately freeze the marital status quo. They don't want you or your spouse making any radical changes until a judge can decide who gets what, or you and your spouse reach a settlement agreement on your own. This includes altering insurance policies, because if catastrophe should strike before your divorce is final, the court wants some assurance that it won't dissipate your assets or place your children at risk.

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Statutory Requirements

Many states have built statutory provisions into their divorce codes for the family's health insurance. For example, when you file for divorce in New Jersey, you must complete and submit a certification of insurance coverage, telling the court what insurance is in place and attesting that you haven't made any changes to the policies in the last 90 days. You must maintain the coverage until your divorce is final or the court orders otherwise. In California, automatic temporary restraining orders go into effect as soon as you file for divorce, which bars you from altering any insurance coverage. In Arizona, a similar injunction goes into effect when your spouse is served with the divorce papers. Check with the court clerk when you file your divorce papers, or confer with an attorney, to find out what exact prohibitions exist in your state.

Health Insurance for Children

Liability for maintaining your children's health insurance may be carried over to your decree when your divorce is final. In New Jersey, if you historically covered your children on a policy in your name, you will most likely be obligated to continue this arrangement post-divorce, regardless of whether you have physical custody. In Minnesota, all child support orders, including those incorporated in divorce decrees, include provisions for healthcare coverage for the kids. If your children are not covered by insurance at the time you file for divorce, the court will order one parent or the other to provide for it. This is usually determined by which parent has access to affordable coverage through employment, or because he earns more. If neither of you can afford it, the court can order you to apply for Medicare or state services.

Health Insurance for Spouses

Divorce typically terminates any possibility that one spouse can remain on the other's medical insurance plan. If you were covered by your spouse's policy and find yourself cut adrift following your divorce, you may be able to continue coverage under COBRA. Not only is your spouse entitled to remove you from the policy when your divorce is final, he's usually required by law to do so.

Other Insurance Coverages

Statutory provisions in each state often cover other types of insurance as well. California's automatic temporary restraining orders prohibit spouses from cashing in life insurance policies, or even from changing beneficiaries, while their divorce is pending. Arizona's injunction also bars you from changing beneficiaries. If you and your spouse share an auto insurance policy in California, the coverage typically must remain in place until your divorce is final, even if you're no longer living together. If you're embroiled in a divorce, your best bet is not to change anything until you seek expert advice. The rules can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If something goes wrong and coverage is no longer in place, you might find yourself financially liable for the uncovered costs if you made alterations to policies when it wasn't allowed.