A feeling of unease and instability is not unique when going through a divorce. It is normal to have a feeling that your life is changing in ways that you can’t fully appreciate. That these changes are out of your control can make this period of transition even more difficult to handle. Yes, someone must file for divorce for any of this to happen but the changes that come with the divorce are sometimes out of anyone’s control. When the consistency and stability of married life come to an end you know the divorce is picking up speed. A lot can get lost in the shuffle of the divorce.
As a military spouse, you know what it’s like to sign up for something where you don’t exactly know what will be on the other side. No matter the branch of the military that your spouse is serving in, a conversation that you have had with your children and even with your spouse has been to see the process through- no matter how rocky the road looks or how much your instincts are telling you to turn around and head back to safety. Military families take on the unknown frequently. A divorce is not war or combat by any means but in the civilian world, it is relatively fierce.
Much of the uncertainty regarding military divorce is concerning the military benefits that the military spouse may end up losing because of no longer being married to the military member or veteran. Health insurance is one of those things that is not the most interesting subject to discuss but it is one of the most essential. The ins and outs of deductibles, co-pays, explanation of benefits, and the like may cause your eyelids to feel heavy but take away that insurance, and your life ends up becoming much more complicated. Having a chronic medical condition, or even the acute need for medical care, makes health insurance even more important to have.
A divorce threatens to upend the continuous health insurance coverage that you and your family rely upon. One of the leading reasons why Americans file bankruptcy is in response to medical bills that cannot be paid for. If you are treated at an emergency room or worse yet need to be admitted for hospital care over multiple days, then that is the sort of expense that the vast majority of families simply cannot budget for. Clipping coupons and being more budget-friendly when picking your birthday restaurant cannot solve a medical bill in the tens of thousands of dollars. That is the reality for many families in Texas if a sudden emergency room visit occurs.
While that may not seem like a possibility for your military family, all bets are off once the divorce begins. Things that you otherwise would have believed never could happen to you and your family start to become points of concern once the divorce has been filed. Did you bite off more than you could chew? Should you have stayed married to avoid losing your health insurance? What are your options now that you are going to get a divorce? These are just a few reasonable questions to be asking yourself as your divorce begins to gain momentum and head down the tracks toward its conclusion.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss what it means to get a divorce from the perspective of a military family. We are fortunate to be able to serve many military families in our area- both active duty and veterans- and this is something that we take a great deal of pride in. We want to earn the trust of our clients one day at a time and strive to do that with our actions and attitudes. If you want to learn more about our law practice, the services that we can provide you and your family, and anything else about divorce please contact us today. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Speak to us to gain immediate information that you can use to further your divorce goals- whatever they may be.
Military spouses and health insurance
As with any question regarding the legal system, the best answer that I can provide you with right now when it comes to questions about your health insurance eligibility after a divorce is: It depends. Many factors are relevant to determining what will happen in the future regarding your ability to stay covered by TRICARE health benefits through the military. Since we can’t talk about them through this blog post, I am going to provide you with general information based on hypothetical situations. Come talk to us at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to gain information about what is going on in your life right now.
In any event, you need to have answers to these sorts of important health questions as you enter a divorce. Peace of mind during a divorce is crucial yet hard to come by. It isn’t as if the divorce process offers a great deal of reassurance. Rather, the process is designed to change almost every facet of your life until you start to look around and wonder what it is that gets to stay the same- if anything. This is the backdrop that you will find yourself a part of as you begin a divorce. A lot is going to change in your life- much of it beyond your immediate control. We are going to discuss whether your health insurance is one of those things that you are going to need to prepare to change, as well.
For starters, if you have children, you can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to their health insurance coverage under TRICARE after the divorce concludes. They will be covered under the plan both during and after the divorce. On the other hand, as the ex-spouse you would only remain eligible for coverage under certain circumstances. Any children of yours who are not the biological children of your ex-spouse will lose coverage.
From the perspective of your spouse, he would bring a certified copy of the Final Decree of Divorce to his local ID card office to update the military’s records and remove any ineligible persons from their insurance. Changes to your child’s health insurance plan can take place for up to 90 days after the divorce since it is treated as a qualifying life event. While you will have some time it pays to think ahead about your options and to try and consider what changes, if any, may be needed to your child’s plan. If your child is moving, for example, there may need to be a change needed to reflect that move.
As far as you are concerned, as the ex-spouse you most likely would not be eligible to remain on a plan under most circumstances. Your ex-spouse’s military branch oversees determining your eligibility. Texas does not have a legal separation under our Family Code but if the two of you consider yourselves to be separated but are not legally divorced then you would maintain your health insurance coverage under TRICARE. Even after the divorce, you could still find yourself eligible for coverage under the following situations.
First, you would be able to keep your TRICARE health insurance coverage after the divorce if you and your spouse were married for at least twenty years. Next, your spouse’s military service must have run for over 20 years. Finally, there must have been at least a twenty-year overlap between the two to remain eligible for TRICARE. If your spouse served 23 years in the military but only the final three of those years were spent married to you then you would not be eligible. On the other hand, if your spouse served twenty-three years in the military and he married you only a year after he joined the military then you would be eligible.
Next, there is a similar rule that would allow you to remain eligible for up to one year if your spouse served at least 20 years in the military, you were married to your spouse for at least twenty years where at least fifteen of those years of marriage were concurrent with military service. This is a lesser benefit, but it would essentially provide you with a one-year grace period to be able to figure out your next move when it comes to securing health insurance. That could involve finding work or trying to apply through the health insurance marketplace.
If you find yourself in a position where you are still eligible for health insurance coverage under TRICARE after your divorce you will need to bring your marriage certificate, final decree of divorce, and proof of service to your local ID card office. Your benefits under TRICARE after your divorce as a retired family member. Where you live will determine your health insurance plan options. Remarrying or getting on a health insurance plan through an employer will cause you to lose eligibility for TRICARE insurance.
If you do not qualify for continued health insurance coverage after your divorce, then you would lose eligibility on the day your divorce becomes final. However, you would still have options for coverage after the divorce. You can purchase health insurance through a program called Continued Health Care Benefit Program. Within sixty days of filing for divorce, you would need to do so with 60 days of your divorce being final. Additionally, you can search the health insurance marketplace for coverage, determine your eligibility for Medicaid or get coverage through your employer or school.
As far as your children are concerned, only the children of your ex-spouse remain eligible for coverage after the divorce. However, if your ex-spouse adopted one of his stepchildren (a child of yours from a prior relationship/marriage) then those children would also remain eligible for coverage even though they are not the biological children of your ex-spouse. All eligible children lose eligibility at age 21 or 23 if they are in college. Your children would then be able to purchase TRICARE under a young adult program that would cover them until age 26.
How does TRICARE’s health insurance coverage function alongside another health plan?
If your child is covered through another health insurance entity and retains health insurance through TRICARE, then know in advance that TRICARE is the secondary payor in any situation where health insurance is needed. You must keep your information up to date with TRICARE for your children’s continued coverage. You can tell your TRICARE insurance contact as well as your child’s doctor’s office that your children have other health insurance. Note that if TRICARE receives a medical bill before the other health insurance reviewing it, TRICARE will automatically decline to make any payments on the bill.
Are active-duty service members able to take advantage of other health insurance?
There are specific circumstances under which you may use other health insurance while you are also a current member of the military. The risk associated with using other health insurance is that you bear the burden of any costs that are incurred. As opposed to your children, TRICARE will not act as a second payor of benefits if you have other insurance that you are choosing to utilize. Keep in mind, as well, that your other health insurance may not cover everything that it ordinarily would under your plan due to your also being eligible for TRICARE. You would need to make sure your health insurance plan is aware of your being covered under TRICARE.
Preparing for life during and after divorce as a military spouse
Your military servicemember spouse will have people to work with him on issues related to health insurance needs during and after the divorce. You may be able to take advantage of the same opportunities to talk with someone during the divorce but that is unlikely after the divorce comes to an end. As a result, you should start to think about what you can do on your own to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success after the divorce to the greatest extent possible. This can be easier said than done in many cases given that you may not have many resources available to you and even less energy to push through the difficult times.
First, you should be able to figure out rather quickly whether you are going to be eligible for TRICARE insurance after your divorce. If you and your spouse were not married for at least twenty years then you know for certain that you are not going to be eligible, for example. In that case, you should have plenty of time to figure out what you are going to do as far as health insurance coverage. Do not wait until the last minute to plan out your next steps with health insurance. Experiencing a health emergency without health insurance coverage can put you in an untenable financial position.
Even if you are not going to be able to remain on the TRICARE insurance of your ex-spouse, then you may be able to afford health insurance in other ways. For one, your ex-spouse may be paying your child support after the divorce which you can use as income for household purchases related to the support of your children. The extra income that this frees up can be utilized to pay for health insurance that you purchase privately or through the health insurance marketplace. Use every advantage at your disposal to make sure that you have coverage for unexpected and routine events, alike.
If you are someone with chronic health conditions that you need to prepare for then it is of the utmost importance that you begin to think about what you can do to not have lapses in your health insurance coverage. This may mean reaching out in advance to your local Medicaid programs offered through your city, town, or county. You can let them know that you are a single parent of minor children and then see what is said about your ability to receive health insurance through Medicaid, for example.
Finding work is probably the most straightforward path to landing health insurance after the divorce. Many employers offer health insurance as a benefit. Once you have accepted a job you can inquire about health coverage to learn the dos and don’ts for a new policy. This is the sort of planning that you need to do to position yourself as best as possible after a divorce. Do not assume that everything will fall into place perfectly without your putting forth the effort to make that a reality.
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