How Does Texas Health Insurance Work after Divorce?

by Stacey H. Langenbahn, J.D.

How health insurance works after a Texas divorce is an important concern for many spouses.  While they are still married a Texas spouse cannot take a soon-to-be former spouse off health insurance unless the soon-to-be former spouse voluntarily secures another plan through his or her own employer, association, church, college, independent insurer, or Affordable Care Act marketplace.  A spouse’s health insurance under the other spouse’s plan does end on the date a judge signs a Texas divorce decree.

Fortunately, there are multiple options for a former spouse to obtain new health insurance or to continue the previously existing coverage after divorce.  COBRA is a Federal law that lets a former spouse continue his or her health coverage through the other former spouse’s policy for up to 36 months.  If COBRA is not available, a former spouse may qualify for extended existing coverage for a period of time under Texas law, and there are even some temporary options.

There are critical notice and enrollment periods starting on the date of divorce for a spouse who intends to elect COBRA to continue under the other spouse’s health insurance after divorce or to sign up for a marketplace plan with divorce as a special event that allows enrollment outside of regular periods.  Do not miss these deadlines or the health insurance will not be available.  For advanced planning before the judge signs the divorce decree, ask the employer of the spouse whose insurance will continue to cover the former spouse or the insurance company about COBRA notice and deadlines and what papers the employer or insurance company will need and when.  A spouse who wants COBRA should include a request for it in the spouse's petition for divorce or answer.

Although a former spouse is not required to pay for the other former spouse’s health insurance after divorce, sometimes she or he does for a period of time by agreement in mediation. The law allows including a child on the parent's health insurance until the child reaches age 26. This can be voluntary, or done through a mediated, written, and signed commitment.

Married couples with children in Texas who separate may also mediate agreements including children’s medical and dental insurance and payment of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for the children’s care; child support; shared parenting time (custody); and shared legal decision-making for the children.  This involves a  court document called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR).

There is no legal separation in Texas. Texas law and creditors still regard couples as married until they are divorced.  An option for Texas spouses who agree to physically separate but stay married for health insurance reasons is in mediation to negotiate and sign a post-nuptial and/or a mediated settlement agreement about the spouses’ support, property, and debt. However, if a spouse later wants to marry someone else she or he will need to get a divorce.  

Understanding the affordability and benefits of health insurance after divorce in Texas takes time.  Détente Mediation encourages clients to start the discussion with each other early in mediation particularly if a spouse will benefit from a special needs trust.  The professional divorce mediator at Détente Mediation guides discussions of post-divorce Texas health insurance and also helps clients who choose not to have their own lawyers to properly draft and word continued health insurance in Texas divorce and custody court paperwork.

Here is the most complete and up-to-date source to read accurate information about Texas health insurance before, during, and after marriage: https://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb005.html

To learn more about the help professional divorce and family mediator at Détente Mediation, Stacey Langenbahn, J.D., can give you and your family, kindly click the mediation free consultation button to set up an appointment.