How Will a Divorce Affect Your Health Insurance Coverage?
During marriage, it's common for one spouse to maintain health coverage for the entire family through his or her group health insurance plan at work. After a divorce, coverage for the other spouse and the children could terminate. State and federal laws offer protection to families in danger of losing healthcare coverage, but it's important to re-examine your family's health insurance situation before a divorce occurs to avoid serious complications afterward.
Pursuant to New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23d upon the filing of the Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey that involves minor children, the party who has previously maintained all prior insurance coverage must maintain that coverage during the pendency of the divorce. This requirement is not limited to just health insurance, it also includes disability insurance, homeowner's insurance, car insurance and life insurance. If that party was to unilaterally cancel any of the insurance policies during the litigation they could be subject to sanctions by the Court.
Health Insurance Coverage for Children Following Divorce
If you are getting a divorce, hopefully you and your former spouse can work out an agreement regarding health coverage for your children. Because health coverage is such an important benefit, some divorce decrees stipulate that a spouse who provided health coverage for the other spouse or family during the marriage must continue to provide such coverage following a divorce. This is especially true if the other spouse didn't work outside the home and has no immediate access to health insurance. Neither an insurer nor an employer can deny such court-ordered coverage when children are involved.
The child support section of the divorce agreement typically assigns responsibility for providing health insurance for the children. But in cases where the noncustodial parent (or that parent's insurance company or employer) refuses to cooperate, federal law provides for a court order that will secure your children's continued health insurance coverage. This court order, known as a Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO), stipulates that custodial parents have the right to obtain health insurance coverage for their children through the noncustodial parent's group health plan, if the noncustodial parent has such coverage. The children can't be denied access to the plan, although limitations can be placed on the coverage. The order will not require the plan to provide any additional benefits not offered in the plan.
The QMCSO can require that policy premiums be deducted directly out of the employee's paycheck. Reimbursements for medical care are made directly to the custodial (nonemployee) parent, when that parent pays a provider. Also, the noncustodial parent can't choose a medical plan that is unsuitable for the children. If you are a custodial parent, you should get copies of your ex-spouse's medical plan, medical claims and election forms, the summary plan description outlining your former spouse's employee benefits, and the page designating who is currently insured under the health plan.
Defaulting Party May Have to Pay Attorney's Fees
It is quite conceivable that if an action has to be filed to either enforce or collect child support or to compel the maintenance of insurance coverage, the Court will require the defaulting party to pay counsel fees, unless the Court finds that default was justified or there are other circumstances that make the awarding of counsel fees unjust. It is important to remember that the filing of the Complaint for Divorce does not mean that the person who filed the complaint or their children lose any of their rights either to receive support or continue to receive all applicable insurance benefits.
Villani & DeLuca – Experienced Divorce Attorneys
Should you have any questions pertaining to this issue or any other issues related to the New Jersey divorce process, child support in NJ, and maintenance of insurance during the pendency of divorce in NJ, please feel free to contact the experienced family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. has been certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a qualified divorce mediator. Please call (732) 709-7757 today for a free consultation.
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