The legal obligations of your former spouse are spelled out in the divorce agreement or court decree. He'll have to pay your health insurance premiums in an amount and for a length of time ordered by the court — if the court orders him to so do. Courts in Delaware have considerable flexibility to craft divorce agreements, taking into account factors such as the financial status of the parties, the standard of living established during the marriage, the age, physical health, and emotional health of the parties, and the duration of the marriage.
During and After Divorce
If you are covered under your spouse's health insurance plan during marriage, that coverage continues during the divorce process. Coverage cannot be canceled until the divorce is finalized. However, you won't be covered after the divorce becomes official, because you're no longer a legal dependent eligible for coverage. So you need to arrange for health care coverage before your divorce is finalized. One way is to ask your former spouse to pick up the costs of your health care as part of the divorce settlement.
Health Care Costs as Alimony
A Delaware court may award alimony in an amount and for a period of time it sees fit, without regard to marital conduct. The court considers the amount of alimony that is necessary to meet your "reasonable needs." All sorts of expenses, including the cost of health insurance, are factored into a determination of alimony payments. If you are unlikely to be able to afford the cost of health insurance until you become eligible for Medicare at age 65, you can ask the court to extend alimony for health care payments until that age.
Other Health Care Options
If your health care coverage is terminated by divorce, you have several options. You can purchase private health insurance coverage using your own funds. You also can apply for coverage under COBRA, a federal law that gives you the right to receive continued health care coverage from your spouse's employer, if the company has 20 or more employees, after the divorce. COBRA has drawbacks. You have to apply within 60 days of your divorce to be eligible, it's very expensive, and it only lasts for 36 months.
Maintaining health care can be absolutely essential for many people, especially if you have previous medical conditions. If you stand to lose your health care benefits after a divorce, it's important to discuss the issue with a professional during the divorce process. In some cases, for example, it might be in the best interests of a couple to live separately, but not formally divorce, in order to maintain health care benefits for one spouse under the other spouse's health insurance.