By Jedidiah McKeehan
Occasionally when individuals come see me who are going through the divorce process, they will say something like, “I need to get him to agree to leave me on his medical insurance,” or, “We have agreed that he will stay on my medical insurance for one year after we are divorced.”
While those may be very good ideas, unfortunately, the law does not allow individuals to remain on each other’s medical insurance after they are officially divorced.
Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-2366 covers this topic and it specifically states that, “when the divorce is final, the spouse (who is covered by the other spouse’s medical insurance) shall not be eligible for continued coverage under the policy.” Pretty clear language there.
Actually, the main purpose of this statute is to require individuals who are getting divorced to notify the spouse whose medical insurance will be terminated upon the divorce being finalized, of such.
So, for example, if a wife carries a husband on her health insurance, the law requires, that at least 30 days prior to the scheduled entry of the divorce, that the wife send written notice to the husband that he is about to lose his medical insurance and that he needs to acquire other medical insurance or COBRA coverage.”
Sending out this notice is taken very seriously by judges, and when they are entering a divorce, I am often asked about whether the medical insurance termination notice was sent out.
But as an attorney, if I know a client really needs to stay on his spouse’s medical insurance to cover an upcoming surgery, or some other procedure, what do I do to help the client?
Well, sometimes the parties will reach an agreement to delay the entry of the divorce a few months until the spouse losing their insurance can secure new insurance or complete some pending medical procedure. Of course, both parties would have to agree to that for that to be an option.
Another semi-extreme alternative would be to become legally separated instead of getting divorced. If you are legally separated, you divide up all of your assets and debts, you set up a parenting plan and child support, but you are still officially married. Even though you are legally separated, you are still married, so you are eligible to remain on each other’s medical insurance.
Of course, the problem that some people would have with this solution is that they are still married to a person they may not want in their lives anymore. So that is a work-around to remaining on the same medical insurance, but it is not often used.
When we circle back to our original question though, the clear answer is, no. The law does not allow spouses to remain on each other’s medical insurance after they are divorced.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.