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We're not married. What happens to Canada Pension Plan benefits after we separate or one of us dies?

Question
We're not married. What happens to Canada Pension Plan benefits after we separate or one of us dies?

Glossary

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Reviewed: 
July, 2017
Answer

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is a type of pension plan that most workers and employers contribute to. You earn CPP credits as you work. When you retire or can't work because of a disability, you can apply to get pension payments.

This is different from a pension plan your employer may have.

After separation

If you lived with your partner for at least one year, you can apply to Service Canada to have the CPP credits that you and your partner earned while living together added up and then divided evenly. This is sometimes called "dividing CPP credits", a "credit split", or a "Division of Unadjusted Pensionable Earnings".

If you earned less than your partner, a credit split may help you qualify for a pension. If you already qualify for a pension, it might increase the amount of your pension.

You don't need your partner's permission to apply for a credit split. You have a right to split their CPP credits even if they don't agree to it as long as you have lived together for at least one year. This is different from how you and your partner would divide other property and debts after you separate.

Time limits

You must apply for a credit split within 4 years after you and your common-law partner separate.

If your partner dies less than a year after you separated, a credit split can still be done as long as you apply within 4 years of your partner's death.

Partners who are married and have lived together for at least one year can also apply for a credit split, but there are some different rules about when they can apply.

Survivor's pension

If your partner made enough contributions to the CPP pension plan, you may be able to get another benefit called a CPP survivor's pension. You may qualify if, at the time of your partner's death:

  • you were married or had been living together for at least one year, and
  • you are at least 35 years old at the time of your partner’s death, or you are younger but have a disability or have dependent children living with you

If you were separated at the time of your partner's death, you may still qualify if your partner did not live with a different common-law partner.

There is no time limit to apply. CPP gives you benefits for the months dating back to your partner's death, but they won't go back more than one year before the date you apply.   

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