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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Divorce Can Reduce Future Benefits

(Posted January 3, 2006)

Question 563: My late husband and I divroced before his death. We were both vested rail workers. He had 22 years of service; I have 13 years.

I am receiveing considerably less from Railroad Retirement than I thought I would. I have appealed my awards to the Railroad Retirement Board but I can't afford to hire an attorney. Do you have any advice?

Answer: Two married rail workers will receive more in Railroad Retirement benefits than if they get divorced. Each married person can receive a spouse annuity on the other's account, which inclues a Tier 1 and a Tier 2. Also the reduction in Tier 1 for receiving an employee annuity is usually restored in Tier 2.

A divorced spouse or widow(er) receives a different type of spouse annuity, which is based on the Social Security formula does not contain a Tier 2. The only way a divorced spouse can receive a Tier 2 is if that benefit is required under the property settlement approved as part of the divorce.

You should be able to find competent legal representation in your community on a "pro bono" bases (without charge) by contacting the local bar association. Also, the railway labor organization that represents your craft also might be of assistance.

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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