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

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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Next Steps: 

1. Complete your credit split form

Credit split form after separation

You or your partner can request the CPP credit split. A representative such as a lawyer can also make the request for you.

You can get the CPP Credit Split form (ISP1901) online from Service Canada’s website.

The information you give, for example, how long you lived together, affects the credit split. That information is sent to your partner. Both you and your partner have the right to challenge the information the other puts in the form.

Survivor's pension and other benefit forms after your partner dies

After your partner's death, you can apply for a survivor's pension and other CPP benefits by getting relevant forms online from Service Canada's website.

If you were living together with your partner for at least one year when your partner died, you may qualify for other CPP benefits like:

  • You can apply for a death benefit. This is a one-time payment to help pay funeral and other expenses. It goes to the person or people who pay those expenses. This might be the person who administers the estate, the surviving partner, or next of kin.
  • You can apply for an Allowance for the Survivor. This is a monthly payment to low income people who are aged 60 to 64. There are some other rules about who can get this benefit.
  • You can apply for international benefits if you or your common-law partner lived outside of Canada at any point in time. The rules about who can get this benefit depend on which country you or your partner lived in and how long you lived there.

Help with the forms

Each form is part of an Application Kit that has instructions to help you apply. Each form also has an Information Sheet to help you fill out the form. You can contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 for help with any of their forms.

Where to send your forms

Mail your completed form to your local Service Canada address. This address is listed at the end of the Application Kit, or you can find out the mailing address online.

It can take 6 - 12 weeks for Service Canada to respond every time you send them something.

You can contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 to check the status of your form.

You may need

2. Ask Service Canada to look at your application again, if needed

If Service Canada decides not to pay you or you disagree with the amount that they decide to pay you, you have 90 days to write to Service Canada staff to ask them to look at your application again. This is called a reconsideration.

In your written request for a reconsideration include:

  • your name, address, telephone number, and Social Insurance Number
  • a detailed explanation of why you want a reconsideration
  • any new information that could affect the decision

Sign and date your written request. Send it to the return address listed on the letter that Service Canada sent you to tell you about their decision.

Service Canada staff, who were not involved in making the original decision, review your application and any new information you provide. This process can take several months. You then get a letter that explains how they decided your reconsideration.

You can contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 to check the status of your reconsideration.

You may need

3. Appeal the reconsideration, if needed

If there is no change in the reconsideration, you can appeal. This means that you disagree with the decision and are asking that someone with more authority review the decision.

For CPP reconsiderations, you appeal to the General Division of the Social Security Tribunal.

To appeal, you fill out the Notice of Appeal to the SST General Division - CPP form. This form can be mailed or faxed back to the Tribunal. You can also write a letter to appeal if you cannot use this form, but you must include all the information that the form asks for.

Time limit

You have 90 days after receiving your CPP reconsideration to appeal to the General Division. You may be able to appeal after 90 days, but you have to request more time by explaining why you didn’t appeal earlier.

After you send in your Notice of Appeal

After you send in your Notice of Appeal, the General Division writes to you about the process.

For example, it tells you if it is going to make a decision based only on the form or letter you sent it, or if it wants questions answered at a hearing. A hearing is when you meet with members of the General Division to tell them why you disagree with Service Canada’s decision.

If you have to go to a hearing, you can present your own case or you can ask someone such as a friend, a family member, a lawyer or other professional to help you. You can talk to a lawyer for information about the process. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

The General Division then sends you its decision in writing.

Decision to "summarily dismiss" your appeal

Sometimes the General Division lets you know in writing if it intends to "summarily dismiss" your appeal. This means that it thinks you don't have a good chance of winning based on the information that it has. You then have the chance to give them more information.

The General Division reviews the new information you send and decides if your appeal should continue or should be dismissed. If it is dismissed, the General Division sends you the decision in writing.

4. Apply to re-open the decision or appeal again, if needed

Ask to re-open the General Division decision

In very few cases, the General Division looks at its decision again. It only does this if it there are new facts that weren't known before the hearing or before it made its decision.

If you have new facts and want the General Division to look at your decision again you have to send your application within one year of it making your decision. You can only ask for a review once.

You can use the Application to Rescind or Amend form to ask the General Division to review its decision.

Appeal a second time

The Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal is the second level of appeal if you disagree with the General Division’s decision.

The Appeal Division hears appeals in CPP cases related to three different types decisions.

  1. Extensions of time

If the General Division didn't agree to extend the time you have to appeal, the Appeal Division hears your case.

You don't have an automatic right to this type of appeal. You must ask for permission to appeal. The Appeal Division only lets you appeal in certain situations. To ask for permission, you need to fill out the Application Requesting Leave to Appeal to the Appeal Division form.

If the Appeal Division gives you permission to appeal, the Appeal Division sends you information on your next steps.

  1. Decisions to "summarily dismiss" your appeal

If the General Division decided to "summarily dismiss" your appeal, the Appeal Division hears your case.

You have an automatic right to this type of appeal. You can appeal by filling out an Application to Appeal to the Appeal Division form.

You can also write a letter to appeal if you cannot use this form, but you must include all the information that the form asks for.

  1. Appeal of the CPP reconsideration

The Appeal Division can hear an appeal of the General Division's decision on your request to appeal your CPP reconsideration.

You don't have an automatic right to this type of appeal. You must ask for permission to appeal. The Appeal Division only lets you appeal in certain situations. To ask for permission, you need to fill out the Application Requesting Leave to Appeal to the Appeal Division form.

You can also write a letter to appeal if you cannot use this form, but you must include all the information that the form asks for.

If the Appeal Division gives you permission to appeal, the Tribunal sends you information on next steps.

Time limit

For all three types of appeals, you have 90 days after receiving your General Division decision to either appeal or, if needed, ask for permission to appeal to the Appeal Division. You may be able to appeal or ask for permission to appeal after 90 days, but you have to request more time by explaining why you didn't appeal or ask for permission to appeal earlier.

After you send in your Application Requesting Leave to Appeal or your Application to Appeal

The Appeal Division writes to you about what the next steps are in the process.

You can present your own case or you can ask someone such as a friend, a family member, a lawyer or other professional to help you. You can talk to a lawyer for information about the process. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

5. Take next steps, if needed

There are further steps that you can take if you don't agree with the Appeal Division's decision.

In a few cases, the Appeal Division looks at its decision again. It will only do this if there are new facts that weren't known before the hearing or before it made its decision.

This application must be submitted within one year of the decision being made. You can only ask for a review once.

You can use the Application to Rescind or Amend form to ask the General Division to review its decision.

You can also ask for a review of the Appeal Division's decision by the Federal Court of Appeal. This can be complicated and you should talk to a lawyer for information about this process.

Reviewed: 
September, 2015

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