What Is the Spouse's Rights When Divorcing Someone Who Receives Railroad Benefits?

By Anna Assad

If a person is divorcing a railroad worker, she may have a right to part of his retirement benefits and a spousal benefit of her own. The Railroad Retirement Board oversees the railroad retirement benefit system and federal laws regulate railroad benefit division in a divorce.

Retirement Tiers

The Railroad Retirement Board calculates retirement annuity benefits for workers based on a two-tier system. A railroad worker may receive Tier I benefits, designed to replace Social Security, as long as he is vested in the program. He must have at least 10 years of service covered by the railroad retirement program if he started working for the railroad before 1995. A worker who started after 1995 needs only five years of service for Tier I benefits. If he is not vested when he stops working for the railroad, his Tier 1 benefit account is transferred into his Social Security account instead. A railroad worker may also receive Tier II benefits. The Tier II system is designed to function similar to a private company pension. Tier II benefits are calculated by how long the worker has worked in a railroad position.

Spousal Rights

A court may give a spouse part of the railroad spouse's retirement even if he doesn't receive retirement benefits yet. Under the railroad retirement system, the divorcing spouse may receive half of the railroad spouse's Tier II benefit. The railroad spouse must have worked at the railroad long enough to be vested. The divorce decree must specify a railroad pension is being divided and direct the Railroad Retirement Board to pay the receiving spouse. The award must be part of the property settlement and not part of alimony.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Railroad Spouse Benefits

A railroad worker's spouse is entitled to spouse retirement annuities of her own. A spouse's Tier I and Tier II benefits are calculated as percentages of the railroad worker's Tier I and Tier II benefit amounts. A Tier I railroad spouse annuity is 50 percent of the railroad worker's gross Tier I benefit amount, while a Tier II spouse benefit is 45 percent of the worker's gross Tier II benefit.

Divorced Spouse Benefit

A divorced spouse may be entitled to a reduced Tier I spouse benefit if the marriage lasted ten consecutive years, both spouses have been 62 for at least a month and the divorced spouse is unmarried. If the spouse working at the railroad hasn't retired yet, the former spouse may get a spouse annuity two years after the divorce if both spouses are 62 and the railroad spouse is fully insured through Social Security based on his earnings. Since the award is calculated based on what Social Security would pay, the divorced spouse's annuity payments are less than what she'd receive if the couple had remained married.


A court can't award a divorcing spouse part of a Tier I railroad benefit as part of a property settlement. If both spouses work for the railroad and started after 1975, any spousal annuity due is reduced by the amount of retirement annuities the spouse is entitled to as an employee. The reduction does not apply to spouses who started with the railroad before 1975.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Social Security Benefits for a Non-Working Spouse After a Divorce


Related articles

How to Split the Pension in a Divorce

Unlike other retirement accounts, dividing a pension is often difficult because it’s hard to place a value on what the pension might be worth in the future, and some pensions are not guaranteed until the employee spouse has worked for the company for a certain number of years. For example, in most circumstances, a military service member does not receive his retirement benefits until he has served for at least 20 years.

Are VA Disability and SSDI Divorce Assets for Alimony in Wisconsin?

Alimony -- simply called maintenance in Wisconsin -- permits maintenance upon divorce based on a number of factors, including the amount of money the parties earn. If a spouse is not working because he is disabled, and he receives disability payments, the Wisconsin courts consider these payments when deciding whether to award maintenance. The courts take disability payments into account because they are a replacement for earnings.

VA Benefits for Divorced Spouses

Most military benefits to a spouse automatically terminate once a divorce is finalized, but some former military spouses are entitled to benefits even after the marriage ends. Federal laws provide some protections to former spouses of service members regarding retirement pay and base privileges. Some former spouses of long-time service members are entitled to continuing health benefits.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Federal Retirement Benefits for Divorced Spouses

Divorce can impact various types of retirement benefits, making some retirement savings accounts eligible for division ...

Virginia Retirement Funds and a Divorced Spouse's Rights

Virginia divorce law allows a person to share in her former spouse's retirement plans in some cases. Virginia is an ...

Can a Divorced Spouse Collect on Disability Benefits or Social Security Income?

Social Security generally pays out three types of benefits: retirement, disability and Supplemental Security Income, or ...

Divorce Laws and State Pension Plans in Oklahoma

Oklahoma state employees may qualify for state-administered retirement plans, including the Oklahoma Public Employees ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED