Can health insurance be included in alimony?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 19, 2012

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Health insurance can often be included in an alimony settlement. In a case where a supported spouse depended upon the other spouse for medical insurance during the marriage and does not have sufficient means to obtain such insurance after the divorce, the court may require the payer spouse to continue to provide health insurance. In some cases, the amount of alimony can be increased so that the supported spouse will have the ability to purchase medical insurance.

Rules Governing Health Insurance and Alimony

While the rules for alimony vary by state, as a general matter most states treat the issue of health insurance in a similar fashion. Usually, if the supported spouse is unable to either purchase independent insurance or to get a job where medical insurance is provided, the other spouse will be responsible for his or her coverage. This responsibility may become an alimony issue because alimony, by nature, is designed to assist the supported spouse in maintaining a lifestyle after the divorce.

Whether the health insurance was offered through an employer or paid for out-of-pocket, the court considers the payer spouse to have been providing the other spouse with the health insurance, and the loss of coverage after the divorce is considered similar to a loss of income. Of course, medical insurance is a tricky issue because the cost of obtaining coverage can be prohibitively expensive when recipients are not part of a group plan. However, your employer-sponsored group health insurance plan may be required under federal law to offer continuation of benefits at group insurance rates to the supported spouse for up to three years after the marriage has ended.

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Obligation to Provide Health Insurance in Alimony

In many cases, the supported spouse will potentially be able to provide medical insurance for him or herself, but not immediately. This is why the health plans mentioned above have the three-year provisions, this allows the supported spouse time to find medical insurance through another source before the group plan coverage expires. A time limit provision may also be written into the alimony agreement. However, if the marriage was a long one and if the supported spouse is unlikely to ever be in a position to pay his own insurance, the alimony-based health insurance coverage may be indefinite in duration.

In any case, medical insurance is an important issue if you’re considering divorce. Speak with an attorney to make sure that your right to healthcare coverage is factored in during the negotiation of your alimony agreement.

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