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Will the Affordable Care Act cause a spike in the divorce rate?

It has already been a big week across the country, and it's only Wednesday. Yesterday was the beginning of October, which ushered in the healthcare exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA (or "Obamacare") continues to be so controversial that we are now in the second day of a federal government shutdown.

But let's set aside politics for a moment, and focus instead on what the ACA might mean from a family law perspective. Some have predicted that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act could cause a spike in the divorce rate. But what do divorce and health insurance have to do with one another?

Many couples who no longer wish to be together choose to seek legal separation rather than divorce. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to both options, but a big reason to opt for legal separation is that it allows both spouses to continue taking advantage of joint health insurance benefits.

If you receive health insurance coverage through your employer, for instance, there's a good chance that your spouse is also covered under that plan. A divorce often means that one spouse will lose access to health insurance, or at least an affordable and subsidized policy. Legal separation essentially creates a de facto divorce while maintaining access to things like spousal health insurance benefits.

Now that the ACA will give more Americans access to affordable health insurance, many couples who have been legally separated up until this point might now decide to finalize their split by getting a divorce.

However, like many predictions about the effects of Obamacare, the extent to which the divorce rate will spike is a matter of speculation. The good news for many, though, is that access to more affordable health care gives them more choices when it comes to divorce and legal separation.

Source: Financial-Planning.com, “Divorce Wave to Follow Obamacare Rollout?” Janice Fioravante, Sept. 30, 2013

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