Common-law qualification period moves to 3 years starting January 2018

Posted for Retired Members, June 22, 2017

On May 31, 2017, the CAAT Pension Plan’s governors approved a restatement of the Plan Text designed to bring the document up-to-date by removing obsolete provisions, and to ensure alignment with legislation. The restated Plan Text goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  Most of the changes in the restated plan text are administrative in nature and have no impact on retired and former members.

The existing Plan text is available on our website along with the restated Plan text which goes into effect January 1, 2018, and a redlined version that shows all of the changes. Visit our Member Policies page to view the Plan text.

The change to common-law marital status only affects those who have recently entered into a new common-law relationship.

What you need to know

The Plan is changing the rules that determine common-law marital status. The changes apply only to the CAAT Pension Plan, and not to any other benefits you may be receiving.

Current rules: for the purposes of the Plan, your marital status is considered to be common-law after you have lived together with your common-law spouse for at least one year.

Starting January 1, 2018: for the purposes of the Plan, your marital status will be considered common-law after you have lived together with your common-law spouse for at least three years .

Why is the common-law rule changing?

The Ontario Pension Benefits Act, which governs the Plan, 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.

Does this apply to you?

This change does not apply to you if:

  • You were legally married or common-law on the day you retired and that eligible spouse is living, or
  • You were not married or common-law on the day you retired, and are not now in a common-law relationship, or
  • You have become legally married since retiring.

This change may apply to you if you have entered into a common-law relationship since retiring and:

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

When does the new rule take effect? The new rule takes effect on January 1, 2018.

How it affects you

The CAAT Plan provides survivor benefits to the eligible spouses of deceased members. 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). Ensure your beneficiary information is up to date by reviewing page 4 of your most recent Annual Statement. By making sure your marital status and beneficiary designations are up-to-date, you ensure that any survivor benefits are paid out according to your wishes.

What you need to do

If you think this change applies to you, please take the following steps:

  1. Check page 4 of your most recent Retired Member Statement to see if your common-law spouse is recorded there.
  2. If the spouse information is recorded there, you don’t have to do anything else.
  3. If the spouse information is not recorded, you should notify the CAAT Pension Plan.
    • If you and your common-law spouse will have been living together for more than one year by the end of 2017, complete the “Retired Member Change Request” form and return it to the CAAT Plan as soon as you can.
    • If you and your common-law spouse will have been living together for less than one year by the end of 2017, you can 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 Retired Member Change Request form on our website to make any changes to your marital status.

Learn more about the Plan’s criteria for eligible spouse here.