Many clients ask us about dropping their spouses from their health insurance coverage once they separate. Naturally, many of our clients are in the position of being concerned that they are the ones who may lose their coverage as a result of their separation and future divorce. If you were to ask ten different Raleigh Divorce Attorneys, you would likely get ten different answers. North Carolina Divorce law does not specifically address this questions, however, one must take great care to avoid making mistakes they will regret.
When Can I Remove My Former Spouse from the Health Insurance Plan?
The fact is that many group plans will not allow you to drop a spouse immediately after separation and before divorce without a Court Order, Agreement, Divorce Judgment, or proof that the spouse is covered under a different group plan. Some plans will allow you to drop a spouse upon the next scheduled enrollment period. Some plans or employers allow changes at any time. Depending on your plan, dropping a spouse may not be an option for you anyway.
Is it Right to Remove My Former Spouse from Insurance?
If you find out you can drop your spouse, should you? The question here is one of morality, common sense, and self-preservation. Do not cut off your nose to despite your face as the old saying goes. No matter what your spouse has done to you, make sure that cutting off that spouses access to affordable medical care is a good idea. Judges in alimony and support claims will not like it. It could cause your spouse to go bankrupt if they incur medical bills they cannot pay, which could mean they will not be paying any marital bills either. Sometimes it’s just better to be the bigger person anyway and keep coverage on a spouse until a settlement of marital claims is made or a divorce is entered.
Am I Responsible for My Ex’s Medical Bills?
Terminating a spouse’s insurance may also make you liable to third parties for medical bills. North Carolina has a common law doctrine called the doctrine of necessaries. What this essentially means is that when you are married, you are responsible for your spouse’s necessaries as far as costs. The most relevant ‘necessary’ being medical care. The North Carolina Appellate courts have continued to uphold this doctrine in cases where hospitals have sued individuals for their spouse’s medical care – even when they are separated! The court held that unless the hospital or medical provider has “actual notice” of separation, the spouse is responsible under this doctrine and they have a claim against you to recover these expenses.
So, let’s consider your estranged spouse, who has no health insurance coverage due to it being canceled. Your spouse is involved in a car accident and is unconscious. She has no ability to tell anyone (even if she wanted to) that she is SEPARATED and thus would have alleviated the concern of the doctrine of necessaries.
As most people can imagine, a trip to the emergency room for a serious condition can easily result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Compare that risk to the cost of providing health insurance until the divorce judgement is entered; it may make sense to keep them covered. Once you are divorced, the doctrine does not apply, as noted previously, so you are looking at this one year separation period of possible financial exposure. This is not to say that you cannot seek some sort of reimbursement from your spouse or a credit as spousal support for this coverage, that is certainly an option. If your divorce is not final, be sure to consult with an experienced North Carolina Divorce Lawyer so you are aware of any risks you may be subjecting yourself to in an effort to save you money.
Need an Experienced Raleigh Divorce Lawyer?
The Doyle Law Group, P.A., Attorneys at Law has been representing clients for over 14 years, garnering a reputation as an aggressive Raleigh divorce law firm. Their team is highly experienced and qualified in handling family law and divorce cases. Contact The Doyle Law Group, P.A. today to schedule your legal consultation by calling 919-301-8843 or by submitting a request online in the form below.
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