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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Spouse In Process of Divorcing Rail Worker

(Posted October 31, 2010)

Question 781: I have been married to a retired railroader for 8 years. We are currently going through divorce proceedings. I will turn 60 on Dec 4. Do I qualify for benefits since we are still married? (My case is not due to go to trial until April 18, 2011.) My only source of income is social security disability and spousal support. I have been told I qualify for benefits under the Tier 2, but I don't know when it would begin.

Answer: Your understanding that you can receive a regular spouse annuity until your divorce is final is correct. If your husband has 30 or more years of rail service credits, your unreduced benefit can begin when you reach 60. A regular spouse benefit consists of two tiers. Tier 1 is similar a Social Security benefit. It will be reduced for your Social Security disability benefit.

When you divorce becomes final, you should notify the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) immediately so your spouse benefit can be terminated timely. If you have not been married for at least 10 years at that time, you will not be entitled to a divorced spouse benefit. That benefit is only a Tier 1 level benefit.

You also can receive a portion of your husband's Tier 2 if your divorce decree provides for that. The process is commonly known as "partition" and the attorney representing you in the divorce should be able to include payment of your husband's Tier 2 in the property settlement agreement. Those payments usually begin as soon as your divorce is final. Tell your attorney to consult the RRB's web site at to find the specific instructions about the partitioning of Railroad Retirement benefits in a divorce.

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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