Rights & Money

Marital Breakdown and Pensions

When it comes to who gets what, the rules governing almost all pensions are decided by the provinces

A popular regular feature in Good Times magazine is “Your Questions,” where Olev Edur provides answers to questions from our readers regarding their rights, personal finance, and estate planning. Here’s one on divorce and pensions.


Q. I’m 72 and planning to separate from my husband of 40 years. We have our house for sale, and I’ll get half of that money, but I have no pension other than Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS), which together amount to barely $1,000 a month. My husband has a good pension, but he’s 71 and still working. Would I be legally entitled to some of that pension to help me survive? I don’t want to fight for anything extra, just for what I am legally entitled to receive.


A. Yes, you should be entitled to some of your husband’s pension benefits, and possibly to a portion of his CPP benefits, as well. But aside from CPP, pensions—and the rules that would apply to them in the event of marital breakdown—are regulated by the provinces. The rules can vary slightly between provinces and in addition, individual pension provisions can vary from one plan to another. In some cases, for example, you might need to get a formal divorce, whereas in others, a duly evidenced separation may suffice.

You’re certainly going to need a lawyer to pursue this matter. I suggest that you search online for two or ideally three lawyers in your area who have experience in divorce matters and arrange interviews with them to discuss your case (these initial interviews should be free of charge). Choose the one with whom you feel most comfortable and take the matter from there.

Photo: iStock/AndreyPopov.