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Obamacare may impact alimony negotiations

Although a household might be dual income, it's common for family members to only use one spouse's employer-provided health insurance benefits. There might be economies of scale or other cost-saving benefits to claim multiple family members, instead of each spouse carrying separate insurance policies.

In a divorce, however, the individual who was covered under his or her spouse's plan might have concerns about starting a new health insurance policy. At least one study suggests that fear might be well founded, as many spouses might not regain coverage quickly. 

Although COBRA benefits might be available under an ex-spouse's plan, that option can be very costly and usually expires after 36 months. Pre-existing conditions, or health issues that developed while the individual was covered under the former spouse's policy, might also present another complication. When searching for a new policy, a health condition may make it hard to find any reasonably priced coverage.

The Affordable Care Act may help spouses in this situation. Under the new law, health care insurance providers might not be able to charge more for pre-existing disabilities. The changing healthcare structure may also influence divorce negotiations regarding spousal support or alimony. For example, a divorce attorney might agree that information available on the health exchanges could simplify the process of estimating post-divorce health care insurance costs.

Of course, many other factors are involved in alimony negotiations. Projected income -- or the estimated length of time needed to become self-sufficient -- should be considered in the context of the length of the marriage and the standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. An attorney can help formulate strategies for these negotiation items.

Source: marketwatch.com, "Obamacare could ease divorce's financial sting," Elizabeth O'Brien, Sept. 25, 2013

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