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Friday, June 13, 2008

Stipulated Agreements Required to Comply with DRL 177

Domestic Relations Law 177, which became effective on October 27, 2007, provides in subdivision 1, that prior to accepting and entering as a judgment any stipulated agreement between the parties in an action for a divorce, the judge is required to ensure that the agreement contains a provision relating to the health care coverage of each individual. The agreement must either provide for the future coverage of the individual, or state that the individual is aware that he or she will no longer be covered by his or her spouse's health insurance plan. Every agreement accepted by the court must contain the following statement, signed by each party, to ensure that the provisions of subdivision 1 are adhered to:

I, (spouse), fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, other-wise I may be required to secure my own health insurance. ___________________________ ____________
(Spouse's signature) (Date)

The statute does not apply to any other types of matrimonial actions. It is confusing and raises many issues. It appears to apply only to “stipulated agreements”, presumably referring to agreements made during the course of an action for a divorce, and agreements and stipulations executed before its effective date. A literal reading of the statute requires every agreement that is submitted to a judge for incorporation into a judgment of divorce to contain this statement, even if either or both spouses do not have a health insurance plan.

Legislation has been introduced in the Assembly to amend the statute but until it has been signed into law, the following provision is suggested for all agreements and stipulations:

ARTICLE __
FUTURE HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE

1. The parties have been advised that New York Domestic Relations Law 177, subdivision 1 (“the statute”) provides that prior to accepting and entering as a judgment any stipulated agreement between the parties in an action for a divorce, the judge is required to ensure that the agreement contains a provision relating to the health care coverage of each individual. The agreement must either provide for the future coverage of the individual, or state that the individual is aware that he or she will no longer be covered by his or her spouse's health insurance plan.

2. The parties have been advised that New York Domestic Relations Law 177, subdivision 1 provides that every agreement accepted by the court must contain the following statement, signed by each party, to ensure that the provisions of subdivision 1 are adhered to:

" I, (spouse), fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, other-wise I may be required to secure my own health insurance.

____________________________ ____________
(Spouse's signature) (Date)

3. The parties have been further advised that a literal reading of the statute requires every agreement that is submitted to a judge for incorporation into a judgment of divorce to contain this statement, even if either or both spouses do not have a health insurance plan.

4. In order to comply with the provisions of the statute the husband and wife represent to each other and state as follows:

a). The wife (does) (does not) have a health insurance plan.

b). The husband (has) (has not) been covered under the wife’s health insurance plan.

c). This agreement (does) (does not) provide for the future health insurance coverage of the husband.

d). In order to comply with the provisions of Domestic Relations Law 177, subdivision 1 the husband states:

" I, ___________________, fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, other-wise I may be required to secure my own health insurance.
____________________________ ____________
(Spouse’s Signature) (Date)

e). The husband (does) (does not) have a health insurance plan.

f). The wife (has) (has not) been covered under his wife’s health insurance plan.

g). This agreement (does) (does not) provide for the future health insurance coverage of the wife.

h). In order to comply with the provisions of Domestic Relations Law 177, subdivision 1 the wife states:

" I, ___________________, fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, other-wise I may be required to secure my own health insurance.
____________________________ ____________
(Spouse’s Signature) (Date)