Now is the time of the year many employers have, or soon will have, open enrollment. This is a time employees get to change health and welfare benefits for the new year which often includes medical, dental, vision and life insurance choices. If you have a pending family law case (divorce, paternity, child support, etc.), or are under an existing Court Order regarding health and welfare benefits, make sure you don’t make the wrong choices during open enrollment or it could be costly! Here are a few things to keep in mind during this period.
Standing Administrative Orders
If you have a pending case, be aware that even though you may not have been directly told by a judge that you must maintain certain levels of insurance, many counties have standing administrative orders. These administrative orders (found in our self-help section) are placed against all parties in family law cases in that county and often put restrictions on parents and spouses from changing their health insurance coverage for other members of the family without their (and sometimes the Court’s) consent.
Orlando and Central Florida Family Law Courts
Here are some of the resources to family law administrative orders out there for the Central Florida area. Keep in mind these are not the only ones and you may be under other orders as well.
Review Your Current Orders
If you have ever had a family law case, whether your case is now open or closed, you may want to re-look at any Orders (including Administrative Orders) that you are currently under and make sure you are clear as to what your obligations are to other parties in your case such as your spouse, ex-spouse and children.
Even if your case has been closed for years, I have seen and heard many stories of people ‘forgetting’ they had obligations for health or life insurance until it was too late or too expensive to obtain it. It only takes a few minutes to review the documents. If you don’t have them any longer, contact your attorney or go to the courthouse and obtain another copy for your records.
What If You Are Receiving Health Insurance From Someone Else?
If you are receiving health insurance coverage under another family members policy (such as a spouse or parent), make sure that you are aware of when the open enrollment period is. Ask about the elections the insured has chosen for you and make sure you know the details of the coverage and any changes that will apply next year.
If you feel something is not right, or you are not confident about the coverage you may have in the coming year, call the insurance company directly and ask them what elections have been made for you (usually a customer service number is on the back of your insurance ID card).
What If Your Current Coverage Is No Longer Available?
As we all know, employers are constantly changing plans and coverage. If you are facing a substantial change in your health or welfare coverage that may affect other members of the family, make sure you discuss your options with them well in advance.
If you are under a Court Order, you need to be especially proactive in bringing these changes to the Court’s attention as soon as possible so you can receive permission to make necessary changes.
- “Obamacare” is here (the Health Care Exchange). Enrollment in exchanges begins on October 1st and coverage begins January 1st. Review options at HealthCare.gov.
- Price out a private policy. Many insurers have changed pricing to compete in the new health care marketplace. You might find a fantastic deal with a private insurer, especially if you are young and in good health.
- If you are married, look at what coverage is available from your spouse’s company. Maybe your spouse can cover you and/or the kids with similar coverage or at a less expensive cost.
- Make sure you verify which dependents can be covered by your spouses plan.
- If you expect to lose some of your coverages completely, be aware of your COBRA options and the associated costs.
Don’t Drop Family Members Without Considering The Consequences
Don’t drop family members from coverage if you have a pending family law case unless you have discussed it in detail with your attorney! Once you make a decision to drop a person from coverage, you may lose the option to cover them again until the next open enrollment or qualified event occurs. This could put you, and the dropped party, in a bad (and costly) situation.
The Bottom Line
Just make sure you educate yourself about your new options and if you have a pending family law case, discuss any the options with your attorney as far in advance as possible.