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Health insurance, emancipation, and separation agreements

| Dec 24, 2014 | Divorce, Insurance |

In Massachusetts divorces health insurance is a priority concern for judges. It is standard practice to provide health insurance for children until they are emancipated. In addition, unless there is a remarriage, health insurance is usually provided for an ex-spouse until all children are emancipated. The ex-spouse is may also be included in coverage because in Massachusetts most family health insurance policies cover an ex-spouse at no additional cost. As long as there is a dependant child, a family health insurance policy is needed. It is now time to reconsider the standard approach to health insurance in separation agreements.
Under prior law, once a child graduated from college or was otherwise emancipated, they had to get their own insurance policy. The law did not allow them to be covered under their parents’ policies. Obamacare has changed this. We can now cover children under a parent’s policy until age 26. If a parent is going to provide insurance for a child after emancipation they should also cover the ex-spouse as well. While a parent may voluntarily cover a child they may find that employers won’t cover an ex-spouse unless there is a court order that requires such coverage. Divorce attorneys should anticipate the ability to cover the ex-spouse for an extended period due to Obamacare and draft language to address this.
Not every child will need health insurance coverage from a parent after emancipation. Many children will find employment and obtain health insurance from their employer. If this happens, there won’t be a family health insurance policy available to cover the ex-spouse. Whatever language is used in a separation agreement needs to consider this potential.
There is also the issue of the cost of providing post-emancipation health insurance for a child. A family plan will always cost more than an individual plan. Child support in Massachusetts presumes that both parents will contribute to the cost of raising a child. It would be reasonable for the parents to share the cost of post-emancipation health insurance for a child. While a judge can’t order health insurance for a child after emancipation, the parties can contract for such insurance. Splitting the cost of the health insurance would constitute consideration to support the contract. In the event the parties later litigate over the enforceability of such a contract, splitting the cost may make the difference between enforceable and non-enforceable.
A good separation agreement should anticipate as many possible changes as possible. Planning for a child and ex-spouse to continue to have health insurance after the child’s emancipation should be part of every separation agreement. An experienced divorce attorney should draft language to provide health insurance for this additional period.
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