As we have previously blogged, healthcare can be a big financial concern for divorcing spouses. In many cases, one spouse provides health insurance for the entire family through his or her employer. However, upon divorce, the non-providing spouse must obtain his or her own health insurance. This can be a difficult process if he or she has a pre-existing condition and is denied coverage or if the premiums are prohibitively expensive. Additionally, obtaining health insurance can be especially problematic for those part of the "gray divorce" trend.
Divorce attorneys have noticed that the number of divorces involving spouses over 50 years old has been increasing. This phenomenon is known as the "gray divorce trend". Many spouses in this age group are even holding out to finalize their divorce until they reach the age of 65 and are eligible for Medicare. Another tactic employed by spouses who cannot obtain outside health insurance upon divorce is to file for legal separation. These couples become legally separated but remain married to maintain their health insurance benefits. This strategy is not always a permissible option under an employer's healthcare plan and the employee spouse may be charged with fraud and required to make financial restitution.
Beginning January 1, 2014, health insurance may not be such a financial hardship for the uninsured divorcing spouse. Health insurance may be more affordable and more accessible under the Affordable Care Act. Under this Act, health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge exorbitant premiums on the basis of a pre-existing condition. The knowledge of the spouse's ability to purchase affordable healthcare will take a significant amount of fear out of the divorce process.
Since health insurance is a factor considered in support calculations, divorce attorneys anticipate that Obamacare will also have an impact on that area of family law. When calculating child support, the Court will consider the health insurance premiums paid by both spouses and adjust accordingly. The "uninsured spouse" will typically be forced to pay extremely high premiums to obtain insurance and therefore his or her need for support is greater. This means that currently the supported spouse may argue for higher spousal support awards if they are obtaining new health insurance. With the introduction of Obamacare, the supported spouse may have a reduced need for support as healthcare may be more affordable. Additionally, many people may be eligible for a government tax credit toward their health insurance premiums. Undoubtedly, supporting spouses will ask family law judges to take this into considering when calculating support.