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When dividing property in divorce, don't forget about insurance

Couples in Massachusetts who make the decision to divorce often find themselves with a long to-do list. Even in an uncontested divorce, parting spouses have to settle what can seem like an endless number of details, from child custody to the division of property and assets. When all is said and done, there may still be arrangements that get left unsettled.

One of these is often insurance. Many married couples choose to use one health insurance plan to cover the entire family. Often the coverage comes from an employer-sponsored policy. But after divorce, the spouse who doesn't work for that company is forced to look elsewhere for a new plan, and that may not be easy.

Couples with children must decide who will cover their insurance needs. Maintaining existing coverage is relatively simple with employer-sponsored plans. For medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance, it's up to parents to decide how to pay for them. Many former couples either agree to split the costs 50-50 or come up with a prorated amount based on their different incomes.

When it comes to coverage for the spouses themselves, women are more often at a disadvantage. They may have left their careers during marriage to raise children and therefore don't have access to an employer-sponsored plan. The alternatives are usually either Medicaid or a private insurance policy.

But these choices may not be preferable, depending on the woman's new financial situation. Women who find themselves with a lower household income due to the divorce may find themselves stuck in between these two options; they might not have a low enough income to be eligible for a public plan, but lack the funds to afford private insurance. Too often the result is that they forgo regular doctor visits, and just at a time when they need it most. After all, the stress that comes with divorce can lead to both physical and mental health problems.

One way to avoid insurance problems post-divorce is to make sure you address it during the proceedings. Spouses who can't afford a health insurance plan should work with their family law attorney to ensure that they have some sort of safety net, possibly in the form of a higher alimony payment, if applicable. By putting it near the top of your divorce to-do list, you'll avoid being caught without coverage in the event of a medical crisis.

Source: Fox Business, "Split Time: Kids, Custody and Insurance," Susan Ladika, Dec. 6, 2012

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