Common-law qualification period moved to 3 years

Posted for Retired Members, January 3, 2018

If you start a common-law relationship after retiring, a recent Plan change may affect you.

What is changing?

Starting January 1, 2018, any new common-law relationship will be considered common-law by the CAAT Plan if you have lived together with your common-law spouse for at least three years.

Before 2018, your marital status was considered to be common-law after living together with your common- law spouse for at least one year.

This change may apply to you if you enter into a common-law relationship after retiring, AND:

  • You had no eligible spouse at retirement,
  • Your eligible spouse at retirement is no longer living, or
  • You have divorced the eligible spouse you had at retirement, and that spouse has properly waived any right to a survivor benefit.

Otherwise, this change will not apply to you.

The survivor benefits that apply to your pension will not change

When a retired member dies, the eligible spouse receives a lifetime pension equal to 60% of the member’s lifetime pension (or 75% if that option was chosen at retirement).

However, this change to the common-law qualification applies only to the CAAT Plan. It does not apply to any other benefits you may be receiving (for example, health benefits).

Who is your eligible spouse

Your spouse is the person to whom you are legally married or in a common-law relationship.

If you had a spouse when your pension started, he or she will be your eligible spouse provided:

  • You and your spouse were living together at the time your pension started (in other words, not “living separate and apart”),
  • You and your spouse did not waive the survivor pension benefit at the time of your retirement, and
  • Your former spouse did not waive the survivor pension after you started receiving your pension.

Post-retirement spouse: If you did not have an eligible spouse when your pension started, (or if your eligible spouse is deceased, or has waived the survivor benefit as part of a divorce) and you have a spouse at the time of your death, that spouse would be your eligible spouse as long as you are living together.

Why is the common-law rule changing?

The Ontario Pension Benefits Act allows a couple to be considered common-law under a pension plan if they have lived together for a period of three years (or less, if the couple has children together). By moving to a three-year period, the CAAT Plan better aligns with the Pension Benefits Act.

What you need to do if you think this change applies to you

  1. Check page 4 of your most recent Retired Member Statement to see if your common-law spouse is recorded there. Your next statement will come in the spring.
  2. If the spouse information is recorded there, you don’t have to do anything else.
  3. If the spouse information is not recorded, or if it changes, you should notify the CAAT Pension Plan.

Notify the CAAT Plan of your common-law marital status after you have been living together for three years, or immediately if you become legally married.

Use the Change of Information form to update your information (including your address or banking information).