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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Claiming Railroad Retirement Benefits After Divorce

(Posted May 10, 2001)

Question 98: About 20 years ago, I divorced a railroad worker following 23 years of marriage. He's now retired and I receive a Tier 1 benefit as a divorced spouse. I'm now trying to get a portion of his Tier 2 benefit. Our divorce decree awards me his retirement benefit, but it does not specify an exact amount or percentage. And it was never filed with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Can I file the divorce decree now and start receiving a portion of my ex-husband's Tier 2 benefit?

Answer: Your excellent question gave me an opportunity to review the RRB requirements for awarding Tier 2 benefits to a former wife or husband based on a divorce settlement. The RRB follows very strict requirements in evaluating legal documents submitted to support this type of claim. The RRB Web site at has an excellent attorney's guide which lists the full requirements,contains sample language for settlement agreements, & detailed instructions on submitting the rquired documentation to the RRB.

Among the most important ones are:

  1. The court order must require the RRB, not the railroad worker, to make the payments.

  2. The court order must specify either an exact monthly amount to be paid or an exact percentage of the monthly benefit to be paid.

  3. The court order must be filed with the RRB, and there is no retroactivity of payments. The apportionment of Tier 2 begins with the month of filing with the RRB.

I suspect that your divorce took place before the Railroad Retirement Act was amended in the early '80s to permit the awarding of a Tier 2 benefit as part of a divorce settlement. That's probably why it does not follow the RRB requirements and it was not filed with the RRB immediately following the divorce.

I suggest that you consult with a divorce attorney to see what can be done at this point to revise the settlement so that the RRB will recognize it and divide your former husband's Tier 2 benefit.

Before getting too involved, your attorney should ask the RRB Deputy General Counsel for guidance in meeting the RRB reqirements. The Deputy General Counsel's address is:

United States Railroad Retirement Board
844 North Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611

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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