Heath Insurance Coverage During Your Divorce
Health insurance coverage is protected during a divorce by the Preliminary Injunction. When initiating a divorce proceeding in Arizona, every divorce filing requires a Preliminary Injunction and a Notice to Convert Health Insurance (See A.R.S. § 25-315 and A.R.S. § 20-1377(K), respectively.)
The Preliminary Injunction governs what happens to health insurance during the divorce.
The Notice to Convert Health Insurance outlines what can happen to health insurance after the divorce is final.
What Happens with Health Insurance during a Divorce?
Between the time a spouse files for divorce and the time the Court grants a divorce, a spouse’s health insurance is protected by the Preliminary Injunction.
The Preliminary Injunction is straightforward—if one spouse is providing for the other spouse’s health insurance, either directly or through an employer, then that spouse cannot legally cancel the other spouse’s health insurance until after the divorce is finalized.
The Preliminary Injunction is a Court order. The Preliminary Injunction is effective on the Petitioner (the spouse who files for divorce) at the time they file. It goes into effect for the other spouse on the day they are served with the Petition for Dissolution.
It is rare to see the spouse who provides health insurance violate the Preliminary Injunction and cancel the other’s spouse’s health insurance. But if it happens, that spouse could be found in contempt and could face repercussions, including monetary penalties.
While the Preliminary Injunction protects a spouse during the divorce; once the divorce is finalized, the health insurance protections/options change.
What Happens with Health Insurance after a Divorce?
Once the marriage is officially over, the spouse who has been providing health insurance for the other spouse is no longer required to do so. This is where the Notice to Convert Health Insurance comes into effect. The Notice is designed to help the soon-to-be uninsured spouse identify their options to purchase health insurance.
If that spouse was on their spouse’s health insurance plan through work, then they may be able to stay on that insurance through the federal COBRA or the state’s mini-COBRA plan. See 29 U.S.C. § 1161-1169, A.R.S. § 20-2330, and A.R.S. § 20-1408(A). But the spouse will have to pay their own premiums going forward, and this option lasts for only 18 months at the most. A.R.S. § 20-1377(D). You can read more about this option here: (Link to second blog).
Additionally, the Notice provides other options for other types of health insurance enrollment. Generally, people must sign up for health insurance during the open enrollment period; if they do not, they cannot opt into a health insurance plan until that window reopens. But the federal law, nicknamed “Obamacare,” creates exceptions for life events, and divorce is one of those. Because you are getting divorced, you have a “qualifying event” that allows you to sign up for health insurance outside the open enrollment period.