In many divorce cases, the parties and their children maintain common health insurance coverage, often through a plan that is available as the result of one party’s employment. If both parties are employed at the time of their divorce, then it is commonplace for each of them to agree to obtain and pay for his or her own individual health insurance post-divorce. However, in cases where one party will not have the ability to access reasonably priced health insurance post-divorce – normally because he or she is not eligible to receive full health insurance coverage through employment – the parties’ Separation Agreement or Judgment of Divorce must address how each party will obtain and pay for their health insurance. Luckily, and depending on the specific insurance plan(s) at issue, Massachusetts allows individuals to remain on their ex-spouse’s health and dental insurance plans post-divorce, as provided for in G. L. c. 175, 110I. Importantly, this right is not automatic; if one party intends to stay on an ex-spouse’s health insurance plan post-divorce, then that entitlement must be specifically incorporated into the parties’ Separation Agreement or Judgment of Divorce in order to be enforceable.
A recent unpublished summary decision from the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Andrea v. Andrea, demonstrates the potential pitfalls of a poorly or ambiguously drafted health insurance provision in a final divorce document. In that case, the parties were divorced pursuant to a Separation Agreement that provided that (1) the husband would continue to maintain health, dental, and vision insurance for the wife post-divorce and, in a separate section, and (2) the wife was entitled to receive “all benefits for continuation of medical coverage as provided for in G. L. c. 175, § 110I” (which includes a provision allowing for a divorced party to continue receiving health insurance coverage from an ex-spouse insurance plan holder even after his or her remarriage). The husband later remarried and sought an order that he was no longer required to provide medical insurance coverage to his ex-wife as a result of his remarriage, essentially. After examining the specific language used in the parties’ Separation Agreement, the Court rejected the husband’s argument and ordered him to continue providing health insurance coverage to his ex-wife based upon the second and more expansive provision regarding her entitlement to continuation coverage, which entitlement continued even after the husband remarried.