Guide to Children's Health Insurance after Divorce
- Parents remain responsible for kids’ healthcare after divorce
- Common health insurance arrangements post-divorce
- Where to buy health insurance for a child
- How to get a child on Medicaid
When parents of minor children decide to divorce, one of their most important considerations is the health and welfare of their children. While divorce laws vary by state, they’re all specific in one important regard: Both parents are responsible for the physical and financial care of their children post-divorce.
Part of this equation is making sure the kids have appropriate healthcare. Here’s what you need to know about children’s healthcare and health insurance after divorce.
Parents remain responsible for children’s healthcare after divorce
Some people assume the higher wage earner is responsible for the children’s health insurance after divorce. This isn’t necessarily true. Every state requires both parents to provide for their children after their divorce – including adequate health insurance coverage.
State laws vary in how they divide parents’ financial responsibility for their children. Generally, after divorce, the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay monthly child support to the primary custodial parent. These payments are meant to equalize expenses for the kids between parents. The cost of children’s healthcare coverage is considered part of this overall financial support. Often, it is baked into a couple’s child support agreement.
Common health insurance arrangements post-divorce
Most parents receive health insurance through their employers, and their children are typically covered by those policies as well. But when a divorce is finalized, one spouse may be dropped from the other spouse’s policy, if they were covered under their spouse’s employer-sponsored insurance.
What happens to the children’s healthcare coverage after divorce? This depends on the arrangements made by their parents. Several options exist.
Child stays on custodial parent’s healthcare insurance
The custodial parent may have agreed to maintain health insurance coverage for the kids – or, they may have been ordered by the court to do so. The noncustodial parent’s monthly child support payment will typically include their share of this expense.
Child stays on noncustodial parent’s healthcare insurance
Some state laws require the non-custodial parent to arrange for and pay for health insurance for their children. In this case, child support to the custodial parent would be reduced to reflect that coverage.
Child stays on both parents’ healthcare plans
Both parents can maintain health insurance coverage for their children through two separate policies. A Coordination of Benefits provision sets out which is the primary policy and which is the secondary policy. Secondary insurance benefits kick in to pay for any outstanding costs after the primary policy has paid benefits.
Parents purchase a private plan for the child
If neither parent has access to healthcare for their children through an employer, one co-parent must purchase a private policy or one through the Affordable Care Act to cover the children. The child support agreement will likely reflect the cost of the premiums paid by one parent.
Parents enroll child in a Medicaid or CHIP program
If neither parent has access to reasonable healthcare through their employer and can’t afford a private policy or a policy through the Affordable Care Act, they may look to government programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Each state administers these programs under federal guidelines. To qualify, families must prove their financial eligibility.
Where can I purchase health insurance for my child?
Depending on your children’s current health insurance coverage, you may not have to worry about purchasing other health insurance coverage for them. If you or your ex-spouse has healthcare coverage for them already, your divorce won’t change that. The only thing that will change is how you'll divide your financial responsibility for that coverage between yourselves.
There are other options for healthcare insurance for your kids if you need to look elsewhere for coverage:
- COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) allows you and your children to temporarily continue receiving coverage (up to 36 months) from your spouse’s employer-sponsored plan after a divorce.
- Employer: If you have healthcare options through your employer after losing coverage on your spouse’s policy, your children (and you) should be able to "special enroll" in your employer’s plan after the divorce.
- The Affordable Care Act: The Affordable Care Act considers divorce a qualifying life event. What does this mean? After your divorce, you can purchase a policy for your children (or yourself) through the marketplace or a private insurer even if the yearly enrollment period is not currently open.
- Medicaid or CHIP: If neither of you can afford healthcare coverage for your children, you may qualify for Medicaid or the CHIP program in your state.
It’s important to remember that there will be out-of-pocket expenses beyond the costs of the child’s health insurance premiums to consider, such as copays and things not covered by insurance. You and your spouse must also agree on how you will share these costs.
How can I get my child on Medicaid?
Medicaid and CHIP are government programs that offer healthcare and programs to people who can’t afford other options. While Medicaid benefits cover adults and children who qualify based on financial resources, CHIP was specifically designed to provide coverage and special programs for children. Although each state administers its own Medicaid, it must meet federal standards. CHIP requirements are established by the state.
As in all divorce matters, it’s best when you can make decisions together for your children’s benefit. Once the court intervenes, both of you are bound by the judge’s decisions, whether you like them or not.
Child custody and support are some of the most contentious parts of the divorce process. In this case, mediation may help. During mediation, you will work with a trained third party who will guide you toward an agreement that can work for everyone.
Have more questions about mediation, medical costs after divorce, or divorce in general? Let us help. At Hello Divorce, we exist to help people navigate the divorce process in a different way from the lawyer-up model. Schedule a free call with us to learn more.