Women and children may face lapses in insurance coverage after divorce

A new study discovered many women become uninsured every year after divorce. Sadly, lapses in insurance also affect the children of divorcing parents. Spouses should plan for their health, automotive, life and homeowners insurance coverage during divorce proceedings.

Divorcing women may lose health insurance coverage

A study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that every year about 115,000 women in the United States lose their health insurance coverage due to divorce. For the two years following their divorces, many women's health care coverage is worse than their coverage while married or non-existent. In fact, 65,000 of the 115,000 women became uninsured for the long term.

The study looked at 1,442 women ages 26 to 64 who participated in the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation between 1996 and 2007, the latest available data. Twenty-five percent of women who had been insured through their ex-spouses' employers became uninsured after divorce.

Middle-income women are most at-risk for becoming uninsured following divorce. This is because they often do not qualify for state or federal health care coverage like Medicaid, but cannot afford to purchase their own private insurance or pay for coverage through COBRA.

Unfortunately, this gap often leads women to forgo medical treatment when they need it due to cost. Other times, women who have federal or state health insurance refuse to see their doctors or switch to new providers to avoid being stigmatized.

Divorce's effect on children's health insurance coverage

Fortunately, health care coverage for children is not overlooked during divorce. During divorce proceedings, parents or a judge determine who will pay for a child's health care coverage. Often, the parent whose employer had been providing the child's health care coverage continues to provide health insurance for his or her children.

If a child's medical expenses are not paid by health insurance, then parents usually split the costs of the care. In recent years, courts have decided that the obligation of each spouse for a child's medical expenses should reflect his or her income, meaning that lower-income spouses may pay less than a higher-earning former spouse.

Teen's auto insurance not guaranteed through divorce proceedings

Unlike health care coverage, a son or daughter's automotive insurance coverage is not usually included in divorce proceedings. This is because driving a car-and taking on the responsibility of paying for insurance-is not a right of children, it is a privilege. Parents usually decide who will pay for a teenaged child's auto insurance policy outside of formal court proceedings.

Homeowner's insurance and divorce

Lastly, divorce may also affect a spouse's homeowner's insurance coverage. Homeowner's insurance follows the property. This means that if the family home remains in the names of both spouses, so will the homeowners policy. However, if the title is changed or the home is sold during the divorce, it is possible that one or both spouses will need to purchase their own insurance policies. Spouses who move into rental properties after divorce should purchase renter's insurance to ensure their personal property is covered.

Divorce affects nearly all aspects of spouses' lives and the lives of their children. Spouses should not neglect insurance considerations when filing for divorce. To learn more about how divorce may affect your health or other insurance coverage, please contact an experienced family law attorney.