Preparing to Lose Benefits After a Divorce

If you rely on your spouse for health insurance and retirement benefits, losing them will be one of the costs of a divorce. There are also tax benefits to marriage that will end. But your losses may be lessened with planning and the right advice and preparation from your divorce attorney.

Health Insurance 

Most people get health insurance as a workplace benefit. The US Census estimates that in 2019, 55.4% of those with medical coverage got it through the workplace. If you currently work and are covered by your spouse, find out if your employer offers health insurance benefits, and if so, its benefits and costs. If you are looking for a new job after your marriage ends, these benefits may be a key to making a position attractive. 

If your spouse can get health insurance through their job, and you have children, it probably makes the most financial sense to have them covered by these benefits.  

The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) changed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to require group health plans to provide a temporary continuation in situations where it may otherwise end.  

If you were covered by your spouse’s medical benefits when you divorced, it could continue. But you will pay your entire premium (there will be no employer contribution), and it will not be available forever (it lasts up to 36 months). Because of its expense, COBRA coverage is often a “bridge” to your subsequent, more affordable health coverage. 

If coverage through your job is not an option, you should consider plans available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) marketplace. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for a subsidy. Your cost will not be affected by pre-existing conditions, but the coverage’s quality,  your age, whether you are covering your children, and your location will impact the premium. You have 60 days from your divorce to enroll. If you miss that deadline, you must wait until the next open enrollment. 

Tax Breaks 

The impact on your taxes will vary. If your income is higher or equivalent to what your spouse earns, you will probably pay a higher tax rate after your divorce because married couples filing jointly usually pay fewer taxes. There is also a larger limit on charitable contributions. If you make substantially less than your spouse post-divorce, you may be in a lower tax bracket and pay less. 

If your divorce was finalized after December 31, 2018, and you pay alimony, you cannot deduct it from your income. If you collect alimony, it is not taxable income. Likewise, child support payments are not deductible and are not considered income for the parent obtaining the support. 

Retirement Benefits 

Retirement benefits like 401(k) accounts and pensions are generally considered marital property, so they could be equitably divided during the divorce. During the divorce process, all marital property is inventoried. A fair amount for each is negotiated by the parties or ordered by a judge after a trial. It is common that instead of retirement benefits being split up, they will stay with the spouse who earned them, while that party gives up an equivalent amount of other assets to make up for it. 

There are many moving parts to a divorce, and the number and size of those parts vary with each couple. Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., today because we are here to help you with a divorce. If you are considering getting divorced and have questions, or you have decided it is right for you and you need legal representation, call us today.