Understanding Common Post-Divorce Insurance and Retirement Needs

After a divorce, a person's entire life goes into flux. In the immediate aftermath of a split, most people are focused on controlling the emotional damage and finding a way to navigate life as a single person. However, it is important to recognize that there are also financial affairs that require timely attention.

When you are married, decisions centered on health care, life insurance and Social Security benefits can seem fairly routine. But, a lot of things change when the marriage ends.

It is always a good idea to discuss financial concerns with an experienced divorce attorney before making any major decisions. With that said, here's an overview of what you need to know:

Health Insurance

In the vast majority of cases, you will not be able to stay on your spouse's employer health plan after the divorce is finalized. Your kids, on the other hand, will likely be able to retain their coverage.

Ideally, you should try to secure your own health insurance policy before you lose coverage under your spouse's plan. If this is not possible, you can get temporary COBRA coverage under your spouse's policy for up to 36 months. However, COBRA coverage isn't cheap, and it's important to note that any conditions you develop while on COBRA could be considered "pre-existing conditions" by your new insurer.

Life Insurance

You can freely remove your spouse as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy (or vice versa) only after the divorce is finalized or before the divorce action has officially commenced.

If you try to remove your spouse while the divorce is pending, you may run into some tricky legal territory. Life insurance factors heavily into child support, spousal maintenance and property division issues, so courts want to make sure that the former beneficiary is not unfairly penalized.

Life insurance can also be a good way to protect yourself if your ex-spouse dies (especially if you were receiving support). If you want to take out a life insurance policy on your ex, you need to do it before the divorce is finalized.

Social Security

In some cases, you may be entitled to a share of your ex's Social Security retirement benefits. Presuming you meet the age requirements, you can receive benefits based on your ex's work record so long as the two of you were married for at least 10 years, the benefits based on your own work record are less than your ex's and you are not currently married to someone else.

Receiving these benefits will not reduce the benefits your ex receives.

These are just a few of the financial considerations that come into play following a divorce. If you're ending your marriage, be sure to discuss your financial plan with a qualified expert in order to better protect your financial future.

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