Divorce, Life Insurance and Your Former Spouse
Most courts have held that a court in a divorce proceeding has the authority to require a spouse to maintain insurance on his/her life for the benefit of the former spouse.
The authority, however, cannot be exercised willy-nilly. Instead, the court’s order that one spouse maintain life insurance for the benefit of the other spouse must be predicated on an alimony award to the former spouse, the ill health of the payor spouse, and the ability of the payor spouse to obtain life insurance. For example, in LaGatta v. LaGatta, 160 A.D.2d 481, 553 N.Y.S.2d 774 (1990), the court held that there was no statutory basis to require the husband to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the wife and children where the husband had no legal obligation to pay alimony and he was making other payments to the wife. Accord Hogan v. Hogan, 58 Ill. App. 3d 661, 374 N.E.2d 1040 (1978) (where husband was not delinquent in making alimony payments, court was not warranted in requiring him to keep insurance policy in force naming ex-wife as irrevocable beneficiary); In re Marriage of Lytle, 475 N.W.2d 11 (Iowa Ct. App. 1991) (no need for insurance naming wife beneficiary); Arundel v. Arundel, 281 N.W.2d 663 (Minn. 1979) (requirement that husband maintain life insurance for wife would remain in effect only as long as husband owed wife alimony); Johnson v. Pogue, 716 So. 2d 1123 (Miss. Ct. App. 1998) (requirement that husband make wife beneficiary could last only as long as alimony obligation itself); Addy v. Addy, 97 Ohio App. 3d 204, 646 N.E.2d 513 (1994) (life insurance requirement must terminate with termination of husband’s obligation to pay alimony).
Some courts have held that the court may not order one spouse to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the other spouse under any circumstances. The courts in these cases most frequently reason that an order directing a spouse to secure life insurance for the benefit of the other spouse is an order in the nature of alimony that continues past death. Since an alimony obligation generally terminates with the death of the payor, the courts reason, an order for life insurance is impermissible. E.g., Menor v. Menor, 154 Colo. 475, 391 P.2d 473 (1964); Beaman v. Beaman, 393 So. 2d 19 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1980); Hopkins v. Hopkins, 328 Md. 263, 614 A.2d 96 (1992); Narwid v. Narwid, 160 Vt. 36, 641 A.2d 85 (1993).
Resources & Tools
COBRA -- COBRA, which is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, guarantees that all individuals who are covered by medical insurance have the right to continue coverage for a monthly fee if employment or marital status changes. A nonemployee spouse in a terminated marriage is entitled to COBRA coverage at his or her own cost for up to thirty-six months.
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