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Divorce Wave to Follow Obamacare Rollout?

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Political opponents may soon be able to blame President Obama for one more thing: a wave of divorces.

If the health insurance exchanges provided for by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and set to go live Oct. 1 succeed in making health care coverage more affordable, planners say they expect some clients who are separated to opt for divorce.

“I deal a lot with collaborative divorce, which keeps it out of the courts -- and health insurance definitely comes up a lot,” says Alan Moore, founder of Serenity Financial Consulting of Milwaukee and Bozeman, Mont. “There’s COBRA continuation coverage, but it’s incredibly expensive -- so many couples decide to stay together legally and only consider formal breakups when one wants to get remarried.”


Indeed, many planners report having clients who’ve remained married just to keep better health insurance for a spouse. "I have a couple as clients who’ve been separated for 10 years,” says Dr. Ken Waltzer, president of Kenfield Capital Strategies in Los Angeles. “In fact, he's moved back to Georgia and she's still living in California.

“He's got terrific [health] insurance because he was part of the movie business,” Waltzer continues. “Even when she goes on Medicare, she has always maintained that she wanted to stay married because it won't be as good as his insurance."

But Waltzer believes that this will be less of an issue once the ACA comes into effect: "The ACA should make good health insurance much more affordable.”


Often, health care issues may overlap with other financial concerns, such as pensions or real estate holdings.

"For my clients, it started during the financial crisis," says Catherine Seeber, a principal and senior financial advisor at Wescott Financial Advisory Group in Philadelphia. "Estranged couples stayed together and older employees continued to prolong retiring. Real estate market softness, also stemming from the financial crisis, was a factor. People who may have wanted to split up had to think twice because spouses had difficulty obtaining loans."

Couples stay married for health care or for retirement benefits, she adds, when there was no financial incentive to do otherwise. Seeber reminds her clients that starting Oct. 1, they will be able to go online and start looking at their ACA options.

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