When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

After 28 years, Olivia and Simon’s loveless marriage sputtered to an end. Before they could finalize their divorce, however, Simon learned he had Stage 2 prostate cancer. He and Olivia needed time – and the advice of their respective counsel – to assess the affect his serious health problems had on their divorce.

Health Insurance and Medical Bills

People in the middle of a divorce proceeding may be concerned about one of their biggest expenses – health insurance. This is especially true if one spouse has been paying the insurance premium for the other. Each divorce may be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In some situations, the insured spouse may continue paying their ex-spouse’s premiums as part of their settlement. In fact, the California Family Code states that health and medical insurance should be maintained until the divorce has become final.

Some couples may decide that the uninsured spouse should seek COBRA coverage. This option, though expensive, may be necessary if one of the spouses has a serious medical condition.

In a community property state like California, marital assets and marital debts are split between spouses. Medical bills incurred during the marriage, then, are likely to be considered the responsibility of both spouses.

Mental Health Concerns

If one spouse is mentally ill or lacks the ability to make decisions, the other spouse can usually obtain a divorce. The court may require medical examinations before granting the divorce. Also, just because one spouse suffers from mental illness does not mean the other spouse receives more of the marital property. Assets and debts still become part of the marital property.

Estate Planning

A complete estate plan typically includes a financial power of attorney, a living will, and a Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Parties to a divorce should make sure their estate planning documents are updated, especially when one partner is ill.

For example, when Olivia and Simon finalize their divorce, they need to change their estate planning documents. It’s especially important for Simon to prepare estate planning documents that relate to medical and financial decisions because his medical condition may require others to make medical decisions for him. If he named Olivia as his agent, she most likely will no longer want to serve.

Call to Learn More About Preliminary Financial Disclosures and Your Divorce.

In addition to legal decisions, Olivia faced tough moral and ethical dilemmas. People dealing with a divorce and a seriously ill spouse may decide to continue with the divorce, stop the divorce, or file for legal separation until they decide what is best. An experienced California divorce attorney can suggest options that are right for your situation.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

Health Insurance and Child Support in California

The requirement to provide child support in California does not extend only to the requirement to provide financial support for the child. Pursuant to federal law, California has the additional requirement that health insurance coverage be provided as an additional form of support for all children.

The requirements that exist in the world of court-ordered child support are very specific and detailed. The state has become involved in maintaining the well-being of the child, and the state will ensure that the people responsible for that child – the parents – do so in a fair and comprehensive fashion. To that end, federal law mandates that states develop child support guidelines that apply in all cases and that clearly cover a child’s needs. The guidelines require support based upon the financial status of the parents, both custodial and non-custodial. 45 C.F.R. § 302.56.

A child support order from the court has numerous elements that may be specifically included as additional costs, such as child care costs related to employment, reasonable healthcare costs, educational or special needs of the child, and visitation expenses. The need to provide for healthcare costs is important for the proper care of a child.

Because both parents share an equal responsibility for providing care of their child, both parents share an equal responsibility for providing health care for a child. This means that both parents are responsible for their proportional share of costs for medical services, including emergency medical services. The costs for those services must be reimbursed to the parent who covered the expenses. Cal. Fam. Code § 3750 et seq.

The health care that must be provided for the child may be self-purchased or provided by a parent’s employer. If the insurance is obtained through the parent’s employer, that employer may not place restrictions on the child’s coverage such as the residency of the child, the marital status of the child’s parents, or the child’s dependency status on the parent’s tax returns. Cal. Fam. Code § 3750 et seq. The coverage obtained must include dental and vision services as well as medical coverage.

The proper care and responsibility for a child goes beyond simply providing shelter and food. For a child to grow into a healthy adult, he or she needs proper medical, dental, and vision care.

If you have questions about the law on child health care in California, contact an attorney who has deep experience in family law in the Golden state. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have the experience you need. Call today to see how we can help: (415) 293-8314.

Can My Child Stay on My Spouse's Health Care Coverage after Divorce?

Can My Child Stay on My Spouse’s Health Care Coverage after Divorce?

The divorce of a child’s parents does not affect that child’s right to maintain health care coverage under one of the parent’s insurance plans. In fact, California law prohibits an employer or insurer from denying enrollment or coverage for a child based on certain outcomes of a divorce. Specifically, coverage may not be denied because the child is not claimed as a dependent for tax purposes or the child does not live with the parent or within the insurance coverage area.

Typically, as part of a divorce involving children, a court will include an order that one parent or the other maintain or provide health insurance coverage for the children, provided that the insurance is available at a reasonable cost. The amount that parties pay for insurance for themselves and their dependents (even new spouses and stepchildren) is an expense that is factored into child support calculations.  

Parents who have been ordered to maintain health insurance for children must provide the other parent with the health insurance information. Conversely, the parent not obligated to provide coverage must advise the obligated parent whether or not she has health insurance through her employer or other group insurance coverage. An obligated parent who is paying child support through a local child support agency (“LCSA”) must also provide documentation to the LCSA of such coverage.

California law also requires courts to include in their child support orders a provision that requires the parent providing coverage to affirmatively seek the continuation of coverage when a child reaches a disqualifying age. Such continuation, however, must be pursuant to other provisions of law that require continued coverage if the child is unable to work due to a physical or mental disability or is otherwise primarily dependent on the parent for support and maintenance.

If you want to learn more about health insurance for children of divorced parents or child support matters in California, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We can help. Call us today to make an appointment: (415) 293-8314.