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My spouse and I have separated. What will happen when I apply for ODSP income support?

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My spouse and I have separated. What will happen when I apply for ODSP income support?

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Reviewed: 
October, 2016
Answer

You may be able to get income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) as a single person or a sole-support parent if you and your spouse:

  • have separated, and
  • don’t plan to get back together

But ODSP must believe that you’ve separated and don’t plan to get back together or they’ll see you as a couple

ODSP rules say that couples have to apply together for assistance.

Getting help

You should get legal advice if ODSP says you must apply as a couple. 

1. Learn about the rules ODSP uses to decide if separated spouses are a couple

To consider you separated, the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has to believe that you and your spouse:

  • don’t live together, and
  • don’t plan to get back together.

But they might say that the two of you are still a couple because of the reason you’re not living together. For example:

  • Your spouse is away at school or looking for work somewhere else.
  • Your spouse is in another country waiting for a visa to come to Canada.
  • There are problems with your relationship, but there’s still a chance you might get back together.

Proving that you’re separated

You may have to prove to ODSP that you’ve separated. For example, you might have:

  • a separation agreement
  • a court order or papers showing that you’re going to court
  • bank or other financial records showing that you keep your money separate

Living at the same address

If you’re still living at the same address as your former partner, you’ll need to explain to ODSP why this is. For example, you might share housing because you’re not able to afford the cost of living on your own.

Getting help because of your disability

Even if you’ve separated, your former partner may be helping you with things that are hard for you to do because of your disability.

For example, your former partner might help you with your banking or you might continue to live at the same address so they can help you at home.

In these cases, it can be hard to prove to ODSP that you’re living as a single person.

You may need to get legal advice to help you know what to do.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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2. Get legal help if ODSP says you and your separated spouse are still a couple

If you’re separated but the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) thinks that you’re still a couple, get legal help.

You won’t be able to get income support as a single person or as a sole-support parent. ODSP rules say that couples have to apply together for assistance.

The amount of income support you get as a couple is less than what you would get as two single people.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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3. Learn about your right to appeal a decision

If the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) refuses to give you income support as a single person or a sole-support parent, you may be able to appeal the decision.

Ask ODSP for the decision in writing right away.

To appeal, the first thing you have to do is write to the ODSP office that made the decision and ask for an internal review.

After you have asked for an internal review, you can appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

The Tribunal isn’t part of ODSP. It has the power to make a different decision.

Getting help

Talk to a community legal clinic if you disagree with the ODSP decision. They may be able to help you appeal the decision.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Canadian Bar Association (CBA)

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