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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

"Common Law" Spouse

(Posted November 26, 2004)

Question 530: I have been living with a man for 18 years. He has been retired for 17 years from the railroad after 35 years of service. Can I get any benefits as his common law wife?

Answer: You might qualify for a Spouse benefit, if you are considered to be the rail worker's wife under the law of any of the states in which you lived with him during the past 18 years. Most states do not have a "common law marriage" law, though.

To have a valid "common law" marriage, you both must have been free to marry; any prior marriage must have ended by a valid divorce or the death of the spouse.

You should consult with an attorney to see if a common law marriage can be established. You also could get legally married; you would qualify for a Spouse benefit in a year, if you are at least 60 and you meet the other requirements. If you've had a child together, you could qualify immediately.

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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