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Right to common-law spouse's CPP and OAS benefits

Region: Ontario Answer # 0129

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) provides CPP contributors and their families with a partial earnings replacement upon retirement, disability or death. Old Age Security (OAS) is a benefit paid monthly to most Canadians aged 65 or older and may include the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for people with a low income.

When can a common-law spouse receive benefits?

The rules regarding CPP and OAS benefits for common-law spouses fall under federal law. If you have been living with your partner for at least one year, you are considered to be living common-law for the purpose of CPP and OAS.

What benefits are available?

If you are a common-law partner of someone who receives or has received CPP or OAS benefits, you may be entitled to a number of related benefits.

Survivor’s pension

Survivor pension benefits are paid to the person who, at the time of death, is the legal spouse or common-law partner of the deceased CPP contributor. You may also qualify for this if you are a separated legal spouse and the deceased had no cohabiting common-law partner.

Death benefit

The CPP death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment made to the estate of a CPP contributor who has died. The executor named in the Will, or the administrator named by the Court to administer the estate must apply for the death benefit on behalf of a spouse (legally married or common-law).

Pension sharing

Couples who are married or living common-law and are in an ongoing relationship may voluntarily share their CPP retirement pensions.

GIS Allowance benefit

If you are a low-income individual, aged 60 to 64, and are the spouse or common-law partner of someone who is receiving the GIS benefit, you may be eligible to receive the Allowance benefit.

GIS Allowance for the Survivor benefit

If you are living in Canada, are a low-income individual aged 60 to 64, and your spouse or common-law partner has died, you may be eligible to receive the Allowance for the Survivor benefit.

Credit splitting for divorced or separated couples

If you lived with your spouse for at least 12 consecutive months and have been living apart for 12 consecutive months, or you are divorced, you and your spouse or common-law partner may be able to equally divide the CPP contributions you both made during the time you lived together. This is called credit splitting. This is allowed even if one spouse or common-law partner did not make contributions to the CPP. For the full eligibility rules, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website. For more information regarding CPP and OAS benefits, refer to our Seniors / Elder Law section.

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Getting advice and the legal help you need

Whether you are considering or are already living in a common-law relationship, many couples now seek legal advice, and often enter into cohabitation agreements, which set out what will happen should the relationship fail. It is advisable to get the legal help that’s right for you. If you are considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you may wish to get help from The Family Law Coach. Their experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, advice and practical tips to help you prepare your case and improve your outcome. They provide specific services for fixed prices, and you only pay for the services you want. If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance regarding common-law relationships and rights to a spouse’s CPP and OAS benefits, and other family law matters, contact a family law lawyer.

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