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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Dividing Tier 2 Benefit In Divorce Decree

(Posted August 12, 2004)

Question 502: I'm 53 years of age and in the process of getting an occupational disability from the railroad after 34 years of railroad service. I'm also in the process of getting a divorce after 34 years of marriage. Is it possible for a divorce decree to provide that my ex-wife will get only 20 percent of my Tier 2 benefit after she reaches the age of 60 or 62 and will not be entitled to anything until then?

Answer: An interesting question!

First I want to explain how the division of a Tier 2 benefit works in a divorce settlement. When a couple divorces, there is a division of all marital property negotiated as part of the final divorce decree. If the couple can't agree on how the assets should be split, then the judge can impose a settlement.

Tier 2 is considered to be "personal property" so it is subject to division in the same manner as cash, savings, stocks and bonds, or other such assets are.

Your wife's attorney probably will consult with an actuary to determine (based on life expectancy tables) the present value of your Tier 2 benefit is. One party usually proposes a division; then the dollar value of each person's share is added to other property that is to be divided between the two parties.

The usual practice is for the division of the Tier 2 benefit to be effective when the Railroad Retirement annuity first becomes payable.

Your proposal might be permitted under the relevant state laws, but you definitely need to consult with a experienced divorce attorney.
Don't be surprised if your wife and her attorney are not exactly ecstatic about the idea!

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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