Divorced or separated

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions you and your spouse or common-law partner made during the time you lived together can be equally divided after a divorce or separation. This is called credit splitting.

Credits can be divided even if one spouse or common-law partner did not make contributions to the CPP.

Credit splitting may help you qualify for benefits and can affect the amount of any current or future benefits under the CPP program for both you and your former spouse or common-law partner.

Am I eligible to request a credit split?

Eligibility for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) credit splitting varies depending on when you divorced or separated, and whether you were married or living in a common-law relationship.

A credit split is not permitted:

  1. when the total Pensionable Earnings of the spouses, former spouses or former common-law partners, in a year, was not more than twice the Year’s Basic Exemption;
  2. for the period before one of the spouses, former spouses, or former common-law partners reached age 18 or after a spouse, former spouse or former common-law partner reached age 70;
  3. for the period when one of the spouses, former spouses, or former common-law partners was a beneficiary of a retirement pension under the CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP);
  4. for the period when one of the spouses, former spouses, or former common-law partners was considered to be disabled for the purpose of the CPP or QPP Disability benefit

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.

You are still married and your separation occurred on or after January 1, 1987

You may qualify for a credit split if:

  • you lived with your spouse for at least 12 consecutive months
  • you have been living apart for at least 12 consecutive months
  • you or your spouse applies in writing and sends us the necessary documents.

Note: Deadline to apply

There is no time limit to apply, unless your spouse dies, in which case you must apply within 36 months of the date of death.

Your common-law union ended on or after January 1, 1987

You may qualify for a credit split if:

  • you lived with your former common-law partner for at least 12 consecutive months
  • you have been living apart for at least 12 consecutive months (except in the case where your former common-law partner died during this period, in which case you may still qualify)
  • you or your former common-law partner applies in writing and sends us the necessary documents within 48 months of the date you began living apart (unless your former common-law spouse is still alive and agrees in writing to waive the 48-month time limit).

Note: Common-law unions

Common-law unions were not recognized for the purposes of credit splitting prior to January 1, 1987.

How do I request a credit split?

Complete the CPP Credit Split form (ISP1901), which will provide us with the information we need to divide pension credits, and mail the form to us.

Who can request a Canada Pension Plan credit split?

Either you or your former spouse or common-law partner can request the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) credit split. A representative (such as a lawyer) can also make the request on your behalf. In the case of a separation, a signature of one of the spouses or common-law partners is required.

If I make the request, what rights does my former spouse or common-law partner have?

The information you give us (for example, the length of time you lived together) affects the credit split. That information will therefore be provided to your former spouse or common-law partner. Both you and your former spouse or common-law partner have the right to challenge the information and to appeal any decision about a division of credits.

If I have remarried or am living in a new common-law relationship, can I ask for credit splitting?

Yes, you can still ask for Canada Pension Plan credits to be split with your former spouse or common-law partner.

What if I worked or lived in Quebec?

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) operates throughout Canada, except in Quebec, where the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) provides similar benefits.

If you and your spouse or common-law partner have contributed only to the Quebec Pension Plan (neither of you has ever worked outside Quebec), you must find out about the eligibility rules under the Quebec Pension Plan. For more information, visit the Régie des rentes du Québec Web site.

If one of us has contributed to both the Quebec Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan, can the credits still be split?

Generally, yes, but there are some differences between the CPP and the QPP. If one of you worked in both Quebec and other provinces over the years and therefore paid into both plans, credit splitting will be more complex. Both laws must be checked to see if credits can be split in your case and to establish the period of the split.

If you are living in a province or territory other than Quebec and have contributed to both the CPP and QPP, contact us for advice. If you are living in Quebec and you want to request a credit split, contact the Régie des rentes du Québec, which administers the QPP.

How will a credit split affect future Canada Pension Plan benefit amounts?

The impact of a credit split can vary considerably, depending on your circumstances.

In some cases, a credit split can have a major impact.

In other cases, the impact of a credit split may be small. For instance, there are features of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) that protect your benefits from being reduced if you have some low earning years. These features are called the General drop-out provision and the Child-rearing provision. If the time that you and your spouse or common-law partner cohabited overlaps with one of your "drop out" periods, then there may be very little impact from the credit split. But the "drop out" period would still work to your advantage.

Example

Maria and John started living together in 1985 when she was 24 and he was 22. John was working in a construction job that was paying him a pretty good salary. Maria was working in a day-care centre.

They were married in 1987. A year after they were married, Maria decided to go back to school to study nursing. She graduated in 1992 and began working in the local children's hospital.

In 1993, John lost his job and was out of work for almost three years. He found work in 1996 but by then the marriage wasn't working and Maria and John decided to go their separate ways.

Following their separation in 1997, John contacted the Canada Pension Plan to apply for a division of pension credits for the time he and Maria lived together. Their earnings from 1985 to 1996 were added together and divided equally between them, as illustrated in Tables 1 and 2 below.

Table 1 shows John's and Maria's records of earnings during the time they lived together. Table 2 shows their earnings after their CPP pension credits were split between them. The last calendar year a couple is together is always excluded from the division.

This "credit split" is a permanent change to both John and Maria's records of earnings. The amount of any Canada Pension Plan benefit that either of them may be eligible for in the future will be based on the revised earnings in Table 2.

Table 1: John and Maria's records of earnings before the credits were divided
Year John's earnings Maria's earnings Years eligible for credit splitting
Note: * = Maximum earnings for the year.
1982 $16,500 $14,000 No
1983 $18,500 $14,000 No
1984 $20,800 $14,000 No
1985 $23,400*: Maximum earnings for the year $14,200 Yes
1986 $25,800*: Maximum earnings for the year $14,600 Yes
1987 $25,900*: Maximum earnings for the year $14,700 Yes
1988 $26,500*: Maximum earnings for the year $9,600 Yes
1989 $27,700*: Maximum earnings for the year $0 Yes
1990 $28,900*: Maximum earnings for the year $0 Yes
1991 $30,500*: Maximum earnings for the year $0 Yes
1992 $32,200*: Maximum earnings for the year $23,500 Yes
1993 $22,500 $33,400*: Maximum earnings for the year Yes
1994 $0 $34,400*: Maximum earnings for the year Yes
1995 $0 $34,900*: Maximum earnings for the year Yes
1996 $18,300 $35,400*: Maximum earnings for the year Yes
1997 $22,500 $35,800 No
1998 $22,900 $36,300 No
1999 $23,500 $36,800 No
Table 2: John and Maria's records of earnings after the credits were divided
Year John's earnings Maria's earnings Years eligible for credit splitting
1982 $16,500 $14,000 No
1983 $18,500 $14,000 No
1984 $20,800 $14,000 No
1985 $18,800 $18,800 Yes
1986 $20,200 $20,200 Yes
1987 $20,300 $20,300 Yes
1988 $18,050 $18,050 Yes
1989 $13,850 $13,850 Yes
1990 $14,450 $14,450 Yes
1991 $15,250 $15,250 Yes
1992 $27,850 $27,850 Yes
1993 $27,950 $27,950 Yes
1994 $17,200 $17,200 Yes
1995 $17,450 $17,450 Yes
1996 $26,850 $26,850 Yes
1997 $22,500 $35,800 No
1998 $22,900 $36,300 No
1999 $23,500 $36,800 No

Case study summary - Credit splitting

  • 1985 - Maria and John begin living together.
  • 1987 - Maria and John marry.
  • 1988 - Maria left work to go to university.
  • 1992 - Maria back at work.
  • 1993 - John loses his job.
  • 1996 - John back at work.
  • 1997 - Maria and John separate.
  • 1998 - CPP pension credits earned during their years together are added together and divided equally between both Maria and John.