Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Affordable Care Act may have unintended consequences on marriage

With over half of marriages ending in a filing for termination, there is no end to the list of things that can affect one's decision to file for a divorce. One major concern of those divorcing is the new or increased expenses that will occur once the divorce has been finalized. For some, these expenses are enough to stay married even if living separate lives under separate roofs.

A University of Michigan study from last year reported that about 115,000 women lose their private health insurance every year a result of divorce. That number may be set to increase as the number of divorces among 50 year olds and over continue to increase. Many gray divorces will involve a spouse with a pre-existing condition which will make securing coverage a nearly impossible task. This may no longer be an issue with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With companies no longer able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, non-working spouses will have an easier time moving on without worrying about their health care needs. While the ACA may produce a rise in divorces it will likely be seen as a good thing for the scores of individuals staying in an unfulfilling marriage for financial or health care reasons.

It has become common practice for some spouses to separate rather than divorce so that they are both able to receive health care benefits. As companies have gotten wise to the move, many have stopped covering separated spouses and failure to disclose a legal separation could result in criminal and civil action against the employed spouse. The access to quality low cost health insurance could affect other aspects of a divorce such as spousal support, child support, and alimony. Until the act is put into practice and cases are tried in a court it is unknown what effect the new law will have.

Source: MarketWatch, "Obamacare could ease divorce's financial sting," Elizabeth O'Brien, September 25, 2013

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