CPP pension splitting after a divorce

Contributions you made while living with your former spouse are eligible for a split, leading to a pension boost

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Q: I am currently separated and I would also like to apply for the CPP benefit split. How much more CPP would I get doing this? How do I find out?


A: CPP pension splitting is available to spouses who are applying to receive the Canada Pension Plan as a means to equalize their retirement incomes. But even those with former spouses should be aware of how they can proactively ensure that they are getting the CPP benefits that they deserve.

Contributions that were made by you and your former spouse while you were living together may be eligible to split and may result in an increase in your pension if you contributed less than your spouse during those years, Leona. In much the same way assets may be split in the event of a marriage breakdown, future pension entitlement–whether a private pension or the CPP–are also relevant for purposes of a post-marriage equalization.

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The relevant period of cohabitation for purposes of the pension split does not include:

– when one of you was younger than age 18;

– when one of you was older than age 69; or

– when one of you was already receiving the CPP retirement pension.

A spousal agreement can generally not prevent a credit split, though in some provinces (Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia currently) couples can agree not to split CPP in the event of a marriage breakdown.

After a divorce, you have to notify Service Canada about your intention to split CPP credits. Since it sounds like you are not divorced and simply separated, Leona, you must be living separate and apart for at least 12 months in order to apply.

If you were common-law, a CPP pension split is available after 12 months of cohabitation and upon a relationship breakdown where you have lived apart for at least 12 months. There is a 48-month deadline post-separation in this case, which can be waived in the unlikely event your ex-partner agrees in writing.

The relevant form for applying for a CPP pension split is the CPP Credit Split form (ISP1901) available on Service Canada’s website. You will need to provide information about yourself, your partner and the length of your relationship and cohabitation.

After applying, your former partner will be contacted to either confirm or dispute the information that you provide, Leona. Both partners then have a right to challenge or dispute the information provided by the other and to appeal Service Canada’s decision about pension credits.

How much you ultimately get will be based on your respective contributions to the CPP during your eligible years of cohabitation and your future contributions up until the time you begin your pension. But the first step is to make sure that you apply in a timely fashion to get the process started, Leona.

A previous version of this article stated that there was a 36-month post-divorce deadline to apply for pension splitting. This deadline no longer applies. MoneySense regrets the error. 

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Jason Heath is a fee-only, advice-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) at Objective Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto, Ontario. He does not sell any financial products whatsoever.

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10 comments on “CPP pension splitting after a divorce

  1. if you are recently separated/divorced whatever..One full SIX MONTHS for every five years you were together/Married .Dating/Whatever Just Broke UP? ..STAY ON YOUR OWN….Grow to be YOU not YOU and someone else but YOU YOU YOU OK?..If you go from one “Co Dependency to another before you are YOU YOU YOU ..Married fifteen years..Not even a DATE for at least Two years…Nine Months for every five years you were together /married .STAY ALONE and GROW ..Two WHOLE people coming together ..Will work a LOT better than two Halves ..Remember Tom and Renae ..Oh YOU COMPLETE ME…HaHa ..Complete your darn Self..Or go from one Co dependent disaster to another co dependent disaster


    • Thanks for catching that. We have corrected the error.


  2. According to cra website, the 36 month rule only applies if you were divorced before certain years, 1987 I believe. After that, there is no time limit to apply. I wish you were correct though. I got divorced in 2005 and made more than the ex.


  3. Curious about whether the 36 month notice time line is valid for marriages ending after 1987??? Please confirm!


    • Hi Scott, We have updated the article with the correct information. The 36-month deadline does not apply in that case. Thanks!


  4. I too have questions regarding the 36 month rule. How did you determine that it no longer applies? Since the rule is mentioned at the bottom of the pertinent paragraph on SC’s website (quoted below), it suggests that it applies to all situations above it.

    ‘Your marriage ended in divorce or annulment

    If your marriage ended in divorce or annulment on or after January 1, 1987, you may qualify for a credit split if:

    you lived with your former spouse for at least 12 consecutive months
    you or your former spouse notifies Service Canada and provides the necessary information (there is no time limit).
    Note: Spousal agreement
    Generally, a spousal agreement does not prevent a credit split. However, some agreements entered into before June 4, 1986, and some agreements in provinces that have a provincial law allowing couples to agree not to split CPP pension credits can prevent a credit split. Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta currently have such laws.
    If your marriage ended in divorce or annulment between January 1, 1978 and December 31, 1986, you may qualify for a credit split if:

    you lived with your spouse for at least 36 consecutive months
    the divorce or annulment was recognized by Canadian law, and
    you or your former spouse applied in writing and sent us the necessary documents within 36 months after your marriage ended.
    If your marriage ended in divorce or annulment before January 1, 1978, you do not qualify for a credit split. The Canada Pension Plan credit split did not exist before January 1, 1978.

    Note: Late application
    If you did not apply within 36 months after the end of your marriage, your pension credits can be divided only if your former spouse is still alive and agrees in writing to waive the 36-month time limit.’


    • Hi Rick,
      Yes, we determined that the 36-month post-divorce deadline doesn’t apply.
      Thanks for reading!


  5. In Canada in April 2001 the Canadian Courts ruled that a divorce settlement is NEVER final and can be re-opened and changed at any time, no matter what length of period has passed, for purposes of changing financial settlement, custody, etc. So in Canada if you get married you are responsible for your ex forever – period; as in the following TRUE case from the Canadian ‘family justice’ courts. A man and a woman got married in their twenties, had no children, had more or less reasonable jobs, nothing fancy and got divorced before they were thirty. A settlement was reached, everything was paid up and they went their own ways. No further contact. In his middle forties he went back to school, got a degree in psychiatry and became a practicing psychiatrist. He established a very successful practice and was bringing in over $250, 000 per year. Ex wife found out and sued for a portion of his new income. She won – the judge ruled that a divorce settlement is never final and can be amended by the courts at any time for the entire lives of the formerly wed individuals.

    There are also cases where Canadian courts have ruled pre-nuptial agreements null – when women come out of the divorce proceedings with less than the man even though they agreed in writing to the to pre-nup beforehand. Pre-nups are not worth the paper they are written on. Like Wills they can and have been overturned by the courts strictly on the basis of some judge saying that he didn’t think it was fair and that the one signing party didn’t fully understand the intent or stipulations of the document.

    And in a final insult – a Canadian court ruled that a man’s last will and testament was null and void because the court perceived that it was sexist and violated women’s equality rights. One recent example in B.C. – a man split with his wife when the children were young. The two boys went with the father, the daughter with the mother. There was absolutely no contact between them for many years – because neither the mother nor daughter wanted ANY contact whatsoever. The man had written will leaving his estate to his sons. The daughter (biological anyway) found out about her biological father’s death and found out she was left out of the will. She sued and even though there had been no contact for many years the judge ruled in her favour and overturned the will saying that the will violated women’s inheritance rights and was sexist and therefore awarded her a large portion of the estate.

    Men, in the end it is your decision but if you never listen to any other advice from me please listen to this; NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER GET MARRIED IN ANY SHAPE, WAY OR FORM.


  6. Would be nice to know if divorce agreement which stated neither party would go after either parties cpp and pensions would be upheld as it was signed/sealed by court of queens bench in alberta in 1989…. how is one to figure out what he/she will have as income for retirement?…..certain statements in govt. Website states agreements in 4 provinces are legal . .then further down the website states as of oct. 1…2005 anything that was in effect before this date is null and void???…..what kind of back door approach is this?… a truly cowardly way to address a perceived conflict(I guess govt. Thinks adults who have legal representation can’t make choices for themselves).. wow… .I’m quite sure that I am not the only one . Man or woman who got divorced in alberta who is having this happen! ..law society of alberta should stand up f for the provincial laws it endorses… just saying.


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