Alimony & Spousal Support

Equitable Distribution; Health Insurance Coverage is Supplemental; Form of Alimony

In the case of Thomas vs. Thomas, PICS Case No. 13-3238 (C.P. Lawrence County, Nov. 12, 2013), the Honorable Thomas M. Piccione sustained husband’s exception regarding a master’s recommendation that he pay wife’s health insurance expenses for six months after entry of a divorce decree because requiring husband to pay for healthcare coverage was a supplemental form of alimony. Exceptions sustained in part.

The parties were married in 1999 and separated in 2004. Wife did not work full time after the birth of the parties’ only child in 2001, but later worked part-time as a dietician. Husband received a doctorate in osteopathy in 1998 and specialized in family medicine and neuromuscular skeletal medicine.

In divorce proceedings, wife made a claim for alimony and requested that husband be ordered to provide continuous health insurance coverage on her behalf. After a hearing, an equitable distribution master recommended dividing the marital estate, and awarding 80 percent to wife, and the remaining 20 percent to husband.

The master also recommended that wife’s request for alimony be denied and that husband only be required to provide wife with health insurance coverage for six months. The parties both filed exceptions to the master’s report.

The court first denied husband’s exception to overall distribution of the parties’ marital assets, finding that the master effectuated economic justice by concluding that the relevant factors favored wife over husband, and therefore, the master properly recommended and appropriate division of marital property.

However, the court sustained husband’s second exception regarding the master’s recommendation that husband pay wife’s COBRA (health insurance) expenses for six months after entry of a divorce decree.

The court found it was clear that requiring husband to pay for wife’s COBRA coverage was a supplemental form of alimony. “It is error to require Husband to pay for Wife’s medical benefits given the Master’s recommendation and the Court’s conclusion that Wife is not entitled to alimony.”

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly (December 17, 2013)

Filed Under: Family Law

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