The Basics of Divorce and Health Insurance

One of the big worries in divorce can be health insurance.  A study from 2012 estimated that roughly 115,000 American women lose private health insurance annually in the months following divorce and that roughly 65,000 of these women become uninsured.  This article will provide information about health insurance during a divorce, but it is important to discuss your options prior to the finalization of the divorce.  Here at the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, we have extensive experience with family law and can help ensure that we advocate for your health insurance needs.  

  • Before the divorce is final, parties are prevented from changing health insurance beneficiaries. 

When a California divorce is filed, there are immediate restraining orders which prevent the parties from changing the beneficiaries of their health insurance. (See

  • COBRA option. 

One option for keeping health insurance after the divorce is COBRA.  If your former spouse had insurance through an employer that has at least 20 employees, COBRA lets you stay on that plan for up to 36 months, provided you don’t marry again or enroll in a new plan.  You’ll need to tell the administrator of the health plan within 60 days of your divorce or legal separation that you want to remain on COBRA.  The main potential downside is that it can be expensive because you’ll pay the premiums yourself, without the additional money you are used to from the employer. 


  • Legal Separation to Stay on Spouse’s Insurance. 

For some employers, legal separation is not a disqualifying event.  If the parties are not looking to have a final divorce and legal separation is sufficient, then staying on your spouse’s health insurance and keeping the employer contribution to the premiums may be an option for you.  This might be a preferred option if deductibles have been met for the year and the parties anticipate further need for medical care. 

  • Affordable Care Act Insurance.  

Another option after a divorce is insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.  These options can be accessed here:  

  • Individual Health Insurance. 

You can contact an insurance broker to find out what insurance options are available to you as individual health insurance. 

  • Medicare. 

If you meet certain criteria (for example, typically if you are 65 and have contributed via your earned income or your spouse or former spouse contributed), then subject to some restrictions you may qualify for Medicare. 

This article is an overview and does not include all the options and/or restrictions that may apply to you.  For personalized help making sure that your health care needs are considered in the divorce process, contact the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502.  We have extensive experience in family law.