In many traditional marriages, one spouse maintains the health insurance plan for the entire family. This may because their employer offers cheaper or more comprehensive coverage. So what happens in the case of a divorce? The matter of health insurance should be dealt with throughout the divorce process in order to ensure both parties have the coverage they need.

The good news is that you have options when it comes to your health coverage after divorce.

COBRA Benefits

If you or your spouse obtains health insurance through an employer, this health care plan only covers the employee and qualifying dependents. After a divorce, an ex-spouse is no longer a qualifying dependent. However, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1986, if your spouse works for an employer with 20 or more employees, you have the right to extend coverage for yourself and your dependents after legal separation or divorce for a period of 36 months.

After the divorce, you must notify the employer and they will give you the necessary paperwork to continue coverage under your ex-spouse’s plan. COBRA benefits can be expensive. You are required to pay premium back to the effective date of your request and the employer will charge you 102 percent of the premium. Talk with your attorney about whether or not COBRA might be right for your situation.

Legal Separation

Choosing a legal separation rather than a divorce would allow you and your partner to live separately and resolve certain issues. In a legal separation, the dependent partner can remain on the subscriber’s health plan. Legal separation has many pros and cons. It is vital that you speak with your attorney about your options to determine if this is the right course of action for you.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, determined it illegal for companies to refuse coverage based on pre-existing health conditions. If you have been denied coverage in the past due to a pre-existing condition, you may now qualify for care if you are forced to leave your spouse’s plan. After a divorce, you will qualify for a special enrollment period to obtain health insurance.


Medical coverage from a spouse can sometimes last way beyond the length of the marriage itself. A former marriage may help you obtain government-sponsored Medicare if you are divorced and approaching the age where you qualify. Speak with your attorney about your Medicare options to determine if you qualify.

If you find yourself without health insurance after a divorce, you are not without options. To speak with an attorney about the right course of action for you, give us a call today.