I now pronounce you and your health care legally illegal.
November 1, 2017 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm in a legal domestic partnership (Wisconsin) with my favorite and best, and thanks to Scott Walker all state employees' domestic partners, including me, will be losing health insurance coverage effective Jan. 01, 2018. Me and mine are considering our options, including getting a marriage license to retain current benefits, and we have a couple of questions to resolve before we do anything.


Partner and I have been coupled for 13+ years, we are officially same-sex legal domestic partners living in state of Wisconsin. Partner is a state employee. I receive my health insurance through partner's plan, and we've had to pay taxes specifically on my portion of the health insurance coverage. Our crazyballs governor Scott Walker and his cronies recently decided in their collective wisdom that since gays can now legally marry in WI, domestic partnership benefits for state employees -gay and straight alike- can be scrapped. As of January 01, 2018 I will lose my health insurance, among other things. If it's pertinent, Wisconsin is a community property state. We are in the process of arranging to get info from lawyer located in WI, but until then a few questions...

The official details spelled out on the WI Employee Trust Fund are here.

- We paid the same amount for our domestic partnership license as married couples in WI pay for marriage licenses. Since the law will be changing is it possible for us either to get our $150 back, or 'trade in' the domestic partnership license and ask the state to transfer us to a marriage license instead since they're the folks who changed the law, denying us the coverage?

- We each have individual checking and savings accounts and have divvied up our household bills evenly, paid separately from . We also have a joint checking and savings account. We keep a minimum balance of $5 specifically in the joint accounts to keep the joint accounts open. This matters because --

- Partner had/has a significant student loan debt long before we met. Partner will likely never pay off the debt within their lifetime because the loan was sold from private co. to private co., resold, interest accrued, etc. The feds came after partner a few years ago and since then partner's wages are garnished at something like 24% of partner's salary. The loan balance is a LOTlot, like six figures range. I am paying off my own student loan debt (also obtained prior to meeting partner), balance is just over $8k.

- If we continue to maintain separate individual bank accounts would it be at all helpful to have a pre-nup declaring that we agree that neither of us will take on the other's individual debt incurred prior to marriage -student loan or otherwise? My take on it is that as long as we continue to maintain sep. bank accounts and pay for bills/debts/etc separately it indicates we are not assuming responsibility for the other's pre-marriage debt. Do I understand that correctly?

- When the Federal Department of Education first sued and came after partner, they also took everything we had in our joint checking account. No notification, just swooped in, grabbed the entire grabbable balance, swooped out. We no longer put any money at all now in our joint accounts, instead using the joint checking ONLY if/when we are transferring $ from my personal account to partner's personal account. Any transferred monies that go into the joint checking stay there for about 2 minutes, our transfers are immediate.

- Partner is very concerned that if we get a marriage license the feds will declare open season on all our collective bank accounts, including my personal checking and savings accounts, and take everything we collectively have. From what I have read on the globalnets I believe that if partner incurred the student loan debt, or any debt for that matter, prior to marriage the spouse cannot be held liable for partner's student loan debt. Can anyone confirm this?

- We each have POAs designating each other as our Person Making Important Decisions and we each have already specified one another as beneficiaries for life insurance, etc., so not so concerned about that. (Should we be concerned?)

- If we marry we will continue to file taxes as individuals, not as a married couple. If one of us is behind on filing annual federal taxes and we do end up marrying, can the government come after the other person for whatever back tax debt partner owed prior to our marriage? Can the government come after a spouse for tax debts partner will owe in future after we are married, even if we file separately?

Thanks for any and all advice -YANAL, YANML, etc.
posted by mcbeth to Law & Government (8 answers total)
 
Not a lawyer, so I can't speak to the legal aspects.

Is the only reason you're planning to get married, though, for the insurance? Because if you no longer have an offer of insurance through your partner's employer due to your evil governor's bigotry, you should be able to get insurance through the Marketplace (or Medicaid, if your own income is low, since you're unmarried).
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


If we continue to maintain separate individual bank accounts would it be at all helpful to have a pre-nup declaring that we agree that neither of us will take on the other's individual debt incurred prior to marriage -student loan or otherwise?

I was married (and now divorced) in Wisconsin. My ex had significant debts to the IRS and I had some credit card debt. Both predated the marriage (we had additional debts incurred during the marriage). Upon our divorce, I became responsible for the portion of the credit card debt accrued before the date of the marriage, and the remainder was split evenly. His IRS debt was withheld from our joint tax refunds so he had to pay me back for half of the refunds.

Can the government come after a spouse for tax debts partner will owe in future after we are married, even if we file separately?

You want to check into the injured spouse allocation. The IRS is very nice, call them. Or get your own tax professional. I can recommend one if you are in the Milwaukee area.

This sounds like kind of a mess and I agree with tivalasvegas that if you're only getting married for the insurance, reconsider if it's worth the effort and stress to deal with the other stuff.
posted by AFABulous at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Btw I didn't know about the injured spouse thing until after I'd filed for divorce, so that was why they withheld our joint refunds. They never went into our bank account but we'd set up a payment plan. Please do this. They won't dig into your accounts until you are seriously behind on payments.

I don't know about student loans - not sure what organization or agency it was, but someone was garnishing a portion of my ex's paycheck for unpaid student loans. They did not touch either his or our joint bank accounts.
posted by AFABulous at 9:21 AM on November 1, 2017


Because if you no longer have an offer of insurance through your partner's employer due to your evil governor's bigotry, you should be able to get insurance through the Marketplace

Provided that Walker &co haven't yet fully obliterated the benefits system, it's very likely that the insurance through the partner's employer is far better and cheaper than anything one could hope to obtain through the Marketplace.

The tax and loan questions are likely things you'll need to ask an Actual Professional, I think, in order to fully work out whether this is worthwhile for you or not.
posted by halation at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


You really need to talk to a lawyer. This is too important to trust to advice on the Internet. Like, I think I know some of the answers to these questions but the consequences of my missing some little point are just too large, so I don't feel comfortable saying anything.

Make sure your person is competent in student loans. Your partner probably has some options for escaping garnishment (also 24% sounds too high), but since some of them could involve entering directly into an income-based repayment plan, your marriage status could also affect them. Don't go freelancing for that particular advice on the Internet, as the odds of your ending up in the hands of a scammer are way too high.
posted by praemunire at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


nthing the lawyer advice. But also note that once you are married, you *cannot* file taxes as individuals any longer. You can file as "Married Filing Separately" but this status is complicated and you need to talk to a tax advisor about which status to use (vs. "Married Filing Jointly").
posted by serelliya at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


Provided that Walker &co haven't yet fully obliterated the benefits system, it's very likely that the insurance through the partner's employer is far better and cheaper than anything one could hope to obtain through the Marketplace.


Yes. This.

I can obtain my own health insurance through my own employer, but the benefits are fewer, more expensive, many more co-pays, and, while the cost for my own insurance is doable, it is uncomfortably high. I've done it before, I can do it again, but I'm sick to pieces of all the hoop-jumping and reduced benefits for domestic partnership. I haven't checked the Marketplace for different options (yet) but my previous experience is that it is significantly more costly than the meh insurance I can obtain through my own employer. I earn a low $30k'ish annual salary, as does partner.

Also - Health insurance is the current main propellant but no, we're not considering this only because of health insurance. We're both very concerned that the few reduced rights we currently have as domestic partners will be obliterated. Pension, inheritance rights, bereavement, FMLA/sick leave to take care of partner, hospital visitation rights, insurance breaks, etc. - some of it will be going away effective Jan 01 '18, some not, but we're both weary of all the ridiculousness, we've lost trust in our local government to represent our best interests as non-married people, and we want to do differently, if possible. Thanks for the info and leads!
posted by mcbeth at 10:47 AM on November 1, 2017


Can the government come after a spouse for tax debts partner will owe in future after we are married, even if we file separately?
Married Filing Separately is not as easy as it sounds. For example, if you one of you is itemizing, you both must itemize. If you are forced to itemize and you don't have much to deduct, you are going to pay more in Federal taxes.
posted by soelo at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


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