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We're married. What happens to Canada Pension Plan benefits if we separate or one of us dies?

We're married. What happens to Canada Pension Plan benefits if we separate or one of us dies?
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Reviewed: 
July 31, 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 or divorce

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.

When married partners divide their property and debts after they separate or divorce, they don't include CPP credits in that calculation. This is because the law says that your CPP credits are not part of this calculation. They are divided separately.

Time limits

If you're still married, you must wait until you've been separated for at least one year before you apply for a credit split. Usually, there is no time limit to apply. But, if your partner died after you separated and you didn't get divorced before they died, you must apply within 3 years of your partner's death.

If you divorced on or after January 1, 1987, you can apply for a credit split at any time.

Common-law partners who 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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