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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

Stop, Look & Listen: Railroad Retirement Benefits Q&A

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

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.

Important notice:

Answers are provided as general guidance on the subjects covered in the question and are not provided as legal advice to the questioner or to readers. Any legal issues should be reviewed by your legal counsel to apply the law to the particular facts of this and similar situations.

The law in this area changes frequently. Answers are believed to be correct as of the posting dates shown. The completeness or accuracy of a particular answer may be affected by changes in the law (statutes, regulations, rulings, court decisions, etc.) that occur after the date on which a particular Q&A is posted.

Copyright 1997-2017 Robert S. Kaufman
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