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Divorce Litigation Guide: Part 4: Medical Expense and Pension

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There are a lot of complicated issues that should be addressed when a divorce begins. From equitable distribution, to visitation and child custody rights, couples need to think about many different changes that will be happening in their lives.

That’s why Mr. Shapiro is creating a bullet-point guide that will help to guide individuals through the various issues that might arise, specifically during divorce litigation. This part of the guide highlights some of the guidelines that may arise during discussions about medical expenses and health insurance in divorce.

Health Insurance Benefits and Divorce

In most cases, the courts consider any assets created during a marriage to be marital property. However, this leaves a few things open to speculation. For instance, your divorce lawyer could ask a court to consider things like healthcare benefits and pensions.

  • Pensions may be subject to equitable distribution for divorce. The pension benefits that people create when married is seen as a marital asset for the portion that was earned while the couple was married. However, the benefits after the filing date of the divorce, and before the marriage began won’t be seen as part of the marital property.
  • Pension plans may also have opportunities for continued health insurance and their spouses after retirement. While courts usually look at the concept of splitting the marital portions of pension plans when addressing equitable distribution, this isn’t always what happens for health care and insurance coverage particularly because ex-spouse usually cannot stay on the same health insurance plans anymore. Courts have opined that lifetime healthcare insurance might not always be a marital asset. As such the loss of that benefit shouldn’t always be considered.
  • Courts, however, have also noted that a loss of insurance benefits could be considered in the asset analysis of equitable distribution. Also, on the topic of insurance, as part of the automatic orders involved with a litigated divorce, health and other insurance benefits must continue while the divorce is ongoing.
Can Courts Order Spouses to Pay for Medical Bills

The courts must consider various pieces of information when splitting assets like pension benefits in a divorce, including whether a spouse should be asked to pay for the medical expenses of an ex-spouse. In this case, the court might look at statutes dealing with alimony or spousal support.

  • Divorce statutes, the Domestic Relations Law in New York, list various factors that judges can consider when deciding whether equitable distribution and support. However, these don’t mention paying out medical expenses. Factors considered often include the age and health of parties, as well as the cost of health insurance, and future and present earning abilities for both spouses.
  • Some court considerations include a catch-all factor that they believe to be fair to the case. This means that every case of divorce is handled differently. Courts are unlikely to always order a spouse to pay the medical expenses of an ex-partner, but this may be an option in some cases.
  • In these instances, it’s important to highlight that some expenses will have already occurred, and others will occur in the future. Expenses that have already happened might be assigned as part of the process of equitable distribution for debts and assets. This could mean that couples are asked to split some of the debts incurred when paying for health bills for one spouse. The courts will have the discretion to determine whether this option is reasonable.
Divorce and Health Insurance

One other issue addressed in divorce is how couples can deal with health insurance. Lots of families have one partner that relies on the health insurance benefits of the other. However, those benefits will disappear when a divorce happens.

  • One option may be for a non-working spouse to use COBRA benefits that require insurance companies to deliver coverage to a beneficiary when certain things happen – like a divorce. However, COBRA benefits can be quite expensive, because the employer isn’t covering any of the cost. This means that it’s difficult to figure out how spouses should be paying for their health insurance coverage.
  • When agreements can be made on the issue of health insurance, that agreement can be ordered, as long as it’s fair. However, if a mutually acceptable agreement isn’t found, the courts of New York can order parties to assign, purchase, or maintain an insurance policy for the children of the marriage, or the spouse.
  • The time period that a court will use to require a party to pay for covering their ex-spouse with health insurance will usually be fixed in duration. It’s unlikely for this time period to exceed the length of any spousal or child support payments that are required. However, often, each party will remain responsible for their own health insurance when a divorce takes place.

New York divorce is often very complicated, particularly when issues regarding health insurance, pensions, and other benefits arise. If you have any concerns about the things that we addressed above, you can find more information here on the website or our blog. However, there’s also the option to call Mr. Darren Shapiro and arrange an initial consultation instead. Up to the first half hour of the initial consultation is free. You can get in touch on (516) 333-6555 or use one of our contact forms.

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