Retirement benefits are one of the assets that may be up for division in a divorce action. If you or your spouse was a railroad employee, there are a few things to keep in mind with respect to equitable distribution of a railroad retirement benefit. First, railroad retirement is comprised of two components: Tier I and Tier II. Tier I s comparable to a social security benefit. This benefit is not divisible as part of a divorce. Tier II is more akin to a traditional pension. The Tier II portion of the benefit is subject to division with proper court order. Some companies may also offer supplemental pension benefits. All non-Tier I benefits can be divided in a divorce.
As indicated above, to divide non-Tier I benefits, an appropriate court order is required. The order needs to be specific about the request for division of benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act and include a fixed dollar amount or percentage as to the amount to be paid directly to the former spouse. It is important to work with an expert to ensure the court order concerning division of the retirement benefits meets all requirements established by the Railroad Retirement Board. In addition to division of non-Tier I benefits, former spouses might also be eligible for a separate annuity from the Railroad Retirement Board. Receipt of this separate annuity does not impact the amount of any annuity due to the employee. There are a list of requirements that must be met in order to qualify for the separate former spouse annuity.