Relationship Breakdown

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Alberta legislation regarding the division of pension benefits in the event of a relationship breakdown has changed.

Beginning March 1, 2019, common-law partners are permitted to submit property division orders or agreements for the division of their Public Service Pension Plan pension benefits. Both married or common-law pension partners can now divide their pension benefits by a property division order or an agreement.

Whether you were in a marriage or in a common-law relationship that has broken down, there are several things to know when it comes to your pension in these situations. Below is some information to help you understand your next steps.

Every divorce or separation is unique; therefore, it is very important that you contact us as soon as possible to obtain information for your personal situation. We provide information to both members and their non-member pension partners.

A member's pension can be divided on separation or divorce. It is very important to note that not every separation or divorce results in a member's pension being divided. You and your pension partner can agree that other assets of equal value can offset the value of the pension benefit, or you and your non-member spouse/common-law partner (your partner) might agree not to divide anything at all, which would leave your PSPP pension unaffected.

Whatever you and your partner decide to do regarding your PSPP pension, please let us know as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already, it is suggested that you get independent legal advice regarding a division of your pension. You can direct your representative to the Instructions for Lawyers and Questions and Answers document for more detailed information.

Dividing Your Pension

If you are considering a separation or divorce, an important first step is determining the value of your pension. A Total Entitlement estimate can be requested from us in writing. It is a statement of the value of your PSPP pension benefit for the period of time you were married or began living together to when you separated.

Note that when a member requests a Total Entitlement estimate, the partner is also sent an estimate. The partner can also request this estimate.

 Written Total Entitlement estimate requests must have the following information: 

  • the signature of the person requesting the estimate;
  • the full names, current addresses, and current phone numbers of both the PSPP member and the partner. (Please note: a current address and phone number can be care of a lawyer);
  • an estimated beginning and end date for the period of joint accrual (this is normally the time the parties were married or living together). The end date must be either a date before the request, or the date of the request;
  • if the request is from, or is to go to, a PSPP member's lawyer, an authorization signed by the PSPP member to disclose the estimate to that lawyer; and
  • if the request is from, or is to go to, a partner's lawyer, an authorization signed by the partner to disclose the estimate to that lawyer.

Please submit the Total Entitlement request via Secure Mailbox on mypensionplan.ca, by mail or by fax.

A member or pension partner can contact us regarding any questions about requesting a Total Entitlement estimate.

As part of your divorce or separation, you and your partner may decide to divide your pension benefit. This requires a Property Division Order (PDO) or agreement to be filed with us which will provide the details as to when and how your PSPP benefit is to be divided, if at all.

Property Division Order or Separation Agreements

In order to divide a PSPP pension between you and your partner, a PDO that complies with the applicable legislation or an agreement in administrable form will need to be filed with the Plan administrator. A PDO or agreement provides how your PSPP benefit is to be divided between you and your partner. Your partner's share is limited to no more than 50 per cent of the total pre-division benefit. Your PSPP pension entitlement will be reduced to account for the portion paid to your former pension partner.

A PDO or agreement that does not comply with the applicable legislation cannot be administered.

You should consult your lawyer about how to obtain a PDO or an agreement. Please provide us with a draft PDO or agreement to review so we can make sure that it complies with the applicable legislation. Making sure your PDO or agreement complies with the applicable legislation can save you time and money. See the Instructions for Lawyers for more information regarding the PDO or agreement.

A court-certified copy of the PDO or your administrable agreement should be filed with us as soon as possible after it is issued or finalized. Your pension benefit cannot be divided until the PDO or agreement has been filed with us.

Please note that even if your partner has completed a Pre-Retirement Death Benefit Waiver or a Pension Waiver it does not prevent them from seeking a PDO or agreement that will divide your benefit.

Pre-Retirement Relationship Breakdown

  • Non-vested member (Not yet entitled to a pension): The partner gets a share (as defined in the PDO or agreement) of the lump sum payout of the member's total contributions, plus interest.
  • Vested member (Entitled to a pension): The partner gets a share of the commuted value of the pension which must be transferred to a Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA). The member retains their share of the pension in the Plan.

Post-Retirement Relationship Breakdown

  • Share of pension payments: A lump sum payment to the non-member spouse is not an option. If the member's partner is entitled to a division of the member’s monthly pension payments, the member's monthly payments will be split according to the division outlined in the PDO or agreement. These payments are made directly to the partner on a monthly basis.

Delayed Division

If the PSPP member is vested (entitled to a pension) at the end of the period of joint accrual and is also within 10 years of the plan’s pension eligibility date, the partner can choose to delay the calculation and distribution of the value of the pension benefits until the member:

  • begins the PSPP pension;
  • triggers a benefit payment on leaving the Plan;
  • completes a transfer; or
  • passes away.