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5 heartbreaking scenarios of insurance after divorce

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While lovebirds are nesting in honor of Valentine's Day, the less lucky in love may be planning a hasty -- or not so hasty -- exit. Sadly, when good lovin' pink candy heart says good byegoes bad, there's more to the fallout than emotional baggage and bickering over who gets the dog.

Insurance plays a role, too. Here's how in five heartbreaking scenarios:

1. You break up, and your ex is still the beneficiary on the life insurance policy

"No matter what your will says, the life insurance policy is a contract, and that money will flow according to what the contract says," says Penny Gusner, Insurance.com senior consumer analyst.

If, after your divorce, you married someone else and enjoyed 50 happy years together, your ex would still get the life insurance proceeds if you never bothered to change the beneficiary.

Some divorced couples who have children together maintain their exes as the beneficiary for the sake of the kids. If you don't trust your ex to spend the money wisely, you can set up a trust for the benefit of the children and name it as beneficiary of the life insurance policy, Gusner says.

Work with an attorney and contact your life insurance company when you're ready to change the beneficiary. And don't forget to make changes on all your policies, including group life insurance you have through work.

2. You divorce, but have to share the house because you're underwater on the mortgage and can't sell it

Homeowner insurance is tied to the property and who is listed on the mortgage lien. So if the home is still titled to both of you, the insurance generally should stay in both your names.

However, you should still have a written agreement about who is responsible for the mortgage and insurance payments. If you can't stand living under one roof, you'll need a separate renters insurance policy when you move to an apartment to cover belongings and provide additional liability protection -- even though you still are named on the home insurance policy.

If you both move out and leave the home unoccupied, you'll need a policy for a vacant home, which won't provide as much protection as a standard policy and costs more. You're probably better off with one of you maintaining residence in the underwater home.

3. You’re still on the same auto policy and your ex racks up tickets

There are savings to be had if you and your partner are covered by the same car insurance policy – multi-driver discounts, multi-car discounts, marriage discounts. That changes if your spouse (or you) are cited for multiple moving violations or accidents within a 12-month period. Once that happens, the insurance company considers the driver a high-risk, and rates go up. The average rate increase for a speeding ticket is about 20% to 30%, for two tickets it’s about 43%. If this is your current situation, you should consider separating your policies.

Or, what if your estranged spouse vandalizes the car you own together? "If you and your soon-to-be-ex share an auto insurance policy, you'd likely have to pay such damages out of pocket," says Gusner. "Most insurers would consider this an 'intentional act.'"

If your enraged ex is no longer on the auto insurance policy, this could be considered vandalism and would be covered under comprehensive insurance, an optional type of car insurance coverage that covers damage caused by factors other than traffic accidents. You will need to file a police report before making the insurance claim and your deductible would apply. If you get back on speaking terms with your ex after such an incident you can ask that they pay the deductible (or for the damage so you don't have to make a claim). If you don't have comprehensive and your ex won't pay for the damage, then suing in small claims court may be your only option to not pay for the damage yourself.

4. You divorce, and you want to stay on your spouse's employer-sponsored health insurance plan

You may be able to continue the coverage by electing COBRA insurance, named for the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The law provides a safety net for employees and their families who lose health insurance because of job losses or changes, death of the employee, or divorce.

The federal law applies to employers with 20 or more workers, but many states have their own mini-COBRA laws that apply to employers with smaller workforces.

If you choose COBRA, you can get coverage through your ex's plan for up to 36 months, but you have to pay the entire monthly premium, plus an administrative fee.

COBRA is expensive and you may be able to find a cheaper individual plan through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Those plans offer subsidies to people who qualify, so you may find an inexpensive plan that offers the same coverage as your former spouse's plan.

Get insurance quotes for individual health insurance plans and compare them with the cost of COBRA. Think carefully about what you need from a health insurance plan -- you might come out ahead by purchasing a high-deductible plan, versus paying expensive premiums for a low-deductible, low-copay plan.

5. You're splitting up and want your spouse off your car insurance policy

It's OK to stay on the same auto insurance policy until you've divided car ownership, as long as you agree on how to pay for the coverage. Keep in mind that if you remove your soon-to-be ex-spouse from your car insurance before the divorce is finalized, you could lose your multi-car discount or possibly a multi-policy discount if your home insurance policy is with the same carrier, Gusner says.

When it's time for separate policies, make sure the new ones are effective before removing yourself or an ex from the joint policy.

"What could be problematic is if there is a miscue in coordinating the policy switch-over and one person finds out too late that they are actually an uninsured driver," Gusner says. "In most states, it's easier -- and cheaper -- to switch carriers while you're still insured than allowing your coverage to lapse. If you are an uninsured driver, even for a short period of time, you could be pegged as a higher-risk driver than you actually are."

Final thoughts on insurance after a breakup

Just because you've broken up with your ex-partner, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue on with the insurance relationships you’ve built. When changing over to your own insurance policies, check rates first with the insurer you’ve been with. You may get extra discounts for years of loyalty with them. Next compare rates to those from at least three other companies to see which one best fits all our needs.  Of course price is important, but also peek at customer service and claim reviews and financial strength scores.  And don’t fear, switching insurance companies, if you find a better fit, is way easier then dividing up your streaming accounts.