Typically, married couples delay making decisions about life insurance, long-term health care and how they plan to use their Social Security benefits until they approach retirement age.
One of the difficult aspects about a divorce is that it upsets those things in life that we put out of our minds. The thought that you may now be forced to find a way to account for those things you had taken for granted is a scary and stressful realization. It gives rise to a number of difficult questions: What happens if I get sick or injured? What if my soon-to-be former spouse tries to remove me from his or her life insurance policy? Will I lose my share of his or her Social Security benefits?
If you are headed for a divorce in San Bernardino, Riverside or anywhere else in Southern California, these questions are the kinds of questions you will need to resolve. While no two divorces are completely alike, there are some general rules concerning health insurance, life insurance and Social Security benefits that you should be aware of before your marriage comes to an end.
If you are on your spouse’s employer-provided health insurance plan, your coverage will come to an end once your divorce is finalized. While your children up to age 26 can remain on your spouse’s plan, you will need to explore some options to find your own coverage. Talk to your divorce attorney about how to work insurance premium payments into your divorce settlement.
However, if this is not a possibility, there are other paths to coverage. First, if you are working, you can talk to your employer about the company’s medical insurance options. Likely, this will be the least expensive option because your employer generally will pay for the bulk of the premium (if not all of it).
Another option is to shop for an individual medical insurance plan directly from a provider. You should shop around for the best price, and be sure to verify that your current doctor is available under the plan you choose. Unfortunately, an individual policy leaves you paying for the bill yourself, but there are plenty of good low-cost plans available in San Bernardino and Riverside through California’s insurance marketplace website, Covered California.
Finally, if you are over the age of 65, you are eligible for Medicare benefits under Medicare Part A. Generally, Medicare Part A will cover most of the basic costs incurred for services like hospitalization. You can also sign up for Medicare Part B, which is a voluntary program to cover less expensive doctor bills. There are also private supplemental insurance programs that are focused on picking up the coverage where Medicare stops.
While you are making your decision, you can also explore purchasing temporary coverage for up to 36 months through the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. This program entitles you to continue the coverage you had with your spouse’s insurance plan, but you will be responsible for the total premium without the help of your spouse’s employer.
Life insurance policies are contracts based on the life of one person that are intended to benefit a third party upon the death of that person. Typically, the beneficiaries are the person’s spouse or child. Generally, the owner of the policy can change the beneficiaries of the policy at any time. This means that prior to filing for divorce, your spouse can remove you from his or her life insurance policy as a beneficiary.
Under California law, once one of the spouses files for divorce, there are a number of automatic temporary restraining orders (ATRO) that go into effect. These orders are to prevent either spouse from altering the status quo of their shared property before the divorce is final. Included among these orders is one that prevents a spouse from:
cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their minor children.
After the divorce is finalized, this protection ends, and your spouse could remove you as a beneficiary from the insurance policies. However, the court may require your spouse to purchase a policy as a way to secure payments of spousal support and child support. If you are to receive spousal or child support, you may want to consider purchasing a life insurance policy based on your spouse’s life before your divorce is final. The reason for this is that these payments will end with the death of the paying spouse, unless an alternative arrangement can be made.
If your ex-spouse is at least 62 years old and is currently receiving Social Security benefits, you can receive up to 50 percent of the amount he or she receives if you meet all of these conditions:
- You are at least 62 years old;
- You and your spouse were married for at least 10 years;
- Your Social Security benefits under your own work record are less than his; and
- You are not currently married.
Though you receive half of what your spouse is eligible to receive, it is important to know that your benefits will not reduce the amount your ex-spouse receives. Your former spouse will still receive 100 percent of his or her benefits, and the government will pay an additional 50 percent of the amount to you.
Contact a San Bernardino Divorce Attorney at Wallin & Klarich
If you live in San Bernardino, Riverside or any other part of Southern California, and you are considering divorce, you should speak to an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney as soon as possible. Divorce is a complex legal process that affects nearly every aspect of your personal and financial future. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable San Bernardino family law attorneys have over 30 years of experience helping clients obtain the best possible outcome in their divorce. If you choose Wallin & Klarich to guide you through the divorce planning process, you can trust that your case will be in very capable hands.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, an experienced Wallin & Klarich family law attorney is nearby no matter where you are located.
For a free, no-obligation phone consultation, call us at (888) 749-7428 today. We will get through this together.
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