New Jersey Family Law Firm: ‘Divorce From Bed and Board’ and Federal Health Care Reform

Many divorcing couples find themselves in a pickle when it comes to deciding how to manage each spouse’s health insurance after the divorce. If you have both been insured via a health care plan offered by one of your employers, the non-employee spouse will no longer have access to that health insurance once the divorce is final, unless the non-employee spouse elects to pay out of pocket for COBRA.

Before passage and implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare” or “health care reform”), the prohibitive cost of private health insurance caused many New Jersey couples to think twice before divorcing. Spouses who chose to stay married in name only, for the sole purpose of continuing health care coverage, were not alone.

Another option for New Jersey couples to consider was called “divorce from bed and board.” This legal action is not a final dissolution of the marriage. Instead, it acts much like a legal separation does in other states. Because the spouses are still officially married, the non-employee spouse can maintain coverage via the other spouse’s employee-sponsored health insurance.

There are two current legal developments that may make “divorce from bed and board” a less-often-utilized solution to the problem of obtaining health insurance after a divorce.

  1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) promises to make private-payer health insurance more affordable and to provide access to Medicaid or tax credits for those families whose income is still too low to make revised health care costs affordable. Open enrollment for health insurance coverage begins October 1, 2013. Get more information at the federal government’s website,
  2. Pending legislation in New Jersey would remove access to continuing health care benefits for spouses of public employees who are “divorced from bed and board” of the public employee. The legislation, which was introduced in the Assembly in June 2013, would exclude from the definition of spouse “any spouse during the time that a judgment for divorce from bed and board shall remain in force and effect.”

These federal and state legal developments make it more important than ever to get careful, knowledgeable legal advice about how to manage your health insurance needs following a New Jersey divorce.

Contact Lyons & Associates for Answers to Questions About Health Care Coverage After a Divorce

At the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss your health care needs and how to best strategize to protect your access to health insurance after a divorce, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.