For many companies, autumn marks the open enrollment period for employment-provided benefits. According to USA Today, “open enrollment is typically a period of several weeks during which you can opt into your company's benefits programs, from health insurance to a retirement plan.” Enrollment periods also apply to changing any benefits you currently receive. Knowing what benefits you're eligible for and wish to enroll in or change, both for yourself, your spouse, and your family, is important, especially if you have to make a decision by a certain deadline, as with open enrollment. This process is all the more complicated if you're going through, or think you might soon be going through, a divorce.
For those who are going through a divorce, separating one spouse from the other's benefit program can be one of the most painful and expensive aspects of the whole divorce process. It also tends to be more difficult for women, who are less likely to work outside of the home and are more likely to be enrolled in their husband's employer-provided benefits. Staying on an ex-spouse's health insurance plan after divorce is not an option. However, with many employer's provided plans, an ex-spouse has a certain period of time in which he or she can opt to enroll in a similar plan on their own. State and federal law dictates which employer provided plans are subject to this option and when the enrollment must take place. In addition, minor children can always stay on an employee's benefit program, regardless of a divorce or who is awarded custody.
While health insurance is the biggest employer provided benefit that changes for ex spouses following a divorce, it certainly is not the only benefit. For example, a spouse can remove you as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Sorting out a life insurance policy can be a complicated step in the process of separating spouses' finances during a divorce, because such policies are commonly used as collateral to secure child support and maintenance payments should something happen to the support-paying spouse.