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Impact of Community Property Settlements on Railroad Retirement
(Posted August 27, 1999)
Question 28: When there is a divorce, can the spouse be awarded a portion of both Tier 1 and Tier 2 by the divorce property settlement? I understand that Social Security does not divide those benefits because of a divorce. Does Railroad Retirement follow Social Security rules for Tier 1?
Answer: You're absolutely right about Social Security. Their law was changed several years ago so SSA cannot divide their benefits because of a Community Property Settlement awarded in a state court. This also applies to Tier 1 of Railroad Retirement benefits. Neither can be divided. Many divorced spouses will still qualify for Railroad Retirement and Social Security if they were married for at least 20 years at the time of divorce.
Because Tier 2 is similar to a private industry pension, it can be divided in a divorce settlement. Other components of an employee benefit, including a vested dual-benefit and a supplemental employee annuity, also are subject to division.
In order to be effective, a certified copy of the community property settlement must be filed with the RRB, and it must clearly show what portion of the Tier 2 should be paid to the divorced spouse. Of couse, any payments cannot begin until the rail employee retires and files for benefits.
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