Relationship Breakdown

A relationship breakdown, such as separation or divorce, can be a troubling time. There are several things to know when it comes to your pension in these situations. We are here to help you understand your next steps.

If you separate or divorce, it is very important that you contact us as soon as possible. The member or pension partner can contact us for information.

Marriage Relationship Breakdown

A member's pension is considered matrimonial property, which means it can be divided on marital separation or divorce. It is very important to note that not every separation or divorce results in a member's pension being divided. You and your spouse can agree that other assets of equal value can offset the value of the pension benefit, or you and your spouse might agree not to divide anything at all, which would leave your PSPP pension unaffected.

Please note that after three years of separation, the spouse from whom you have separated is no longer your pension partner. If you remain separated but still married before you retire, you can select a pension option without consideration to your long-separated spouse. However, your long-separated spouse, although not your pension partner, may still have a claim to your pension and obtain an MPO for a share of your monthly pension. Conversely, a common-law partner from whom you have separated does not have matrimonial property rights to your pension.

Whatever you and your spouse decide to do regarding your PSPP pension, please let us know as soon as possible.

It is suggested that you get independent legal advice regarding a division of your pension. You can direct your representative to the Instructions for Lawyers for more detailed information.

Common-Law Relationship Breakdown

Common-law relationships (also called adult interdependent partnerships) aren't covered by the Matrimonial Property Act. This means that in situations where a member separates from a common-law partner, pension benefits are not matrimonial property and cannot be divided.

If you and your common-law partner separate, you should still contact us as soon as possible. Filing a legal statutory declaration with us makes us aware of the change and allows us to update your pension partner information. Having your relationship information up-to-date can prevent delays when it comes time to calculate and pay your pension benefit.

Dividing Your Pension

If you are married and are considering a separation or divorce, an important first step is determining the value of your pension. A Total Entitlement estimate can be requested from us in writing. It is a statement of the value of your PSPP pension benefit from the time you married to when you separated.

Note that when a member requests a Total Entitlement estimate, the spouse or pension partner is also sent an estimate. The non-member spouse can also request this estimate.

 Written Total Entitlement estimate requests must have the following information: 

  • the signature of the person requesting the estimate;
  • the full names, current addresses, and current phone numbers of both the PSPP member and the spouse. (Please note: a current address and phone number can be care of a lawyer);
  • an estimated beginning and end date for the period of joint accrual (this is normally the time the parties were married or living together). The end date must be either a date before the request, or the date of the request;
  • if the request is from, or is to go to, a PSPP member's lawyer, an authorization signed by the PSPP member to disclose the estimate to that lawyer; and
  • if the request is from, or is to go to, a non-member spouse's lawyer, an authorization signed by the non-member spouse to disclose the estimate to that lawyer.

Please submit the Total Entitlement request via Secure Mailbox on mypensionplan.ca or by mail.

A member or pension partner can contact us if there are questions about requesting a Total Entitlement estimate.

As part of your divorce or separation, you and your spouse may decide to divide your pension benefit. This requires a matrimonial property order (MPO) to be filed with us which will provide the details as to when and how your PSPP benefit is to be divided, if at all.

Matrimonial Property Order

In order to divide a PSPP pension between you and your spouse, an MPO that complies with the Plan rules will need to be filed with the Plan administrator. An MPO provides how your PSPP benefit is to be divided between you and your spouse. Your spouse's share is limited to no more than 50 per cent of the value of the benefits that you earned during the period you were married and not separated. Your PSPP pension entitlement will be reduced according to the MPO. An MPO that does not comply with the Plan rules cannot be administered.

You should consult your lawyer about how to obtain an MPO. Please provide us with a draft MPO to review so we can make sure that it complies with the Plan rules. Making sure your MPO complies with the Plan rules can save you time and money. See the Instructions for Lawyers for more information regarding the MPO.

A court-certified copy of the MPO should be filed with us as soon as possible after it is issued. The pension benefit will not be divided until the MPO has been filed with us and the division of the pension benefit will not be made retroactive to a date that is before the date of filing.

Please note that even if your spouse or former spouse has completed a Pre-Retirement Death Benefit Waiver or a Pension Waiver it does not prevent them from seeking an MPO that will divide your benefit.

Pre-Retirement Breakdown

  • Non-vested member (Not yet entitled to a pension): The spouse gets a share (as defined in the MPO) of the lump sum payout of the member's total contributions, plus interest.
  • Vested member (Entitled to a pension): The spouse gets a share of the commuted value of the pension which must be transferred to a Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA). The member retains their share of the pension in the Plan.

Post-Retirement Breakdown

  • Share of pension payments: A lump sum payment to the non-member spouse is not an option. If the member's spouse is entitled to a division of the member’s monthly pension payments, the member's monthly payments will be split according to the division outlined in the MPO. These payments are made directly to the non-member spouse on a monthly basis.

Delayed Division

If the PSPP member is vested (entitled to a pension) at the end of the period of joint accrual and is also within 10 years of turning 65, the non-member spouse can choose to delay the calculation and distribution of the value of the pension benefits until the member:

  • begins the PSPP pension;
  • triggers a benefit payment on leaving the Plan;
  • completes a reciprocal transfer; or
  • passes away.