Pensions and marital breakdowns: information for lawyers
Lawyers are often asked to advise clients about dividing a pension benefit between a plan member and a former spouse. Learn more about the information and documents we need to administer a pension following a relationship breakdown.
1. A checklist of what you need to do
3. Estimate the value of the plan member’s pension
5. Submit proof-of-age documents
7. Review of documents
Submit other applicable forms
There are several forms you may need to submit, depending on the particular circumstances of your client.
Authorization to release information
Form P1 Claim and request for information and notice should be sent to BC's Public Service Pension Plan as soon as possible. This form is required before the pension administrator can provide any information to the former spouse, and it authorizes the plan to provide information to another party such as legal counsel.
If a separation agreement, registered court order or Form P1 has been filed, the plan will notify a former spouse of actions taken by the member that affect the pension, such as applying to retire or transfer their pension as a lump sum.
Applying to become a limited member
Once the separation agreement or court order has been finalized, the former spouse of the plan member should apply to become a limited member by submitting Form P2 Request for designation as limited member and an administrative fee of $750 made payable to the Public Service Pension Plan.
As a limited member, the former spouse can apply for their proportionate share of the plan member’s pension when the plan member has reached their earliest retirement age. We will not inform the former spouse of this date; it is the former spouse’s responsibility to apply for their benefit as either a lump-sum transfer of the commuted value to a locked-in financial vehicle or as a separate pension.
As a limited member, the former spouse is entitled to receive certain information, including an annual benefit statement. If they become a limited member before the plan member retires, they are also entitled to name their own beneficiaries for their portion of the pension benefit.
Transferring the benefit entitlement
Form P4 Request by limited member for transfer or separate pension is used by a limited member to choose how to receive their share of benefits using a benefit formula if the member is not yet receiving a pension. Once the plan member reaches the earliest retirement age, the former spouse, as a limited member, may choose either a lump-sum commuted value transfer or a separate pension.
Waiving survivor benefits
Form P5 Waiver of survivor benefits after pension commencement is used when the member has started receiving their pension and the former spouse is entitled to death (survivor) benefits from the pension. The Family Law Act (FLA) allows the former spouse to give up these survivor benefits so that they can be paid to another person. (This is a permissive provision under FLA, and the plan does not administer this form.) The member and their former spouse may independently agree to use this form and pursue an alternate approach for the former spouse to give up their survivor benefits when the plan member dies.
Withdrawing a claim
Form P7 Withdrawal of notice/waiver of claim is used in three ways by the former spouse (or, if the former spouse is deceased, their personal representative):
- To withdraw the notice from a specific form
- To withdraw a specific document
- To waive their claim and withdraw all forms and documents connected to that claim (including a court order submitted in support of a claim)
Once the pension has been divided and paid to the former spouse, a claim cannot be withdrawn. If a Form P5 or Form P7 is in place, it cannot be undone by another Form P7.
Updating personal contact information
Form P8 Change of information can be used by the former spouse to notify the plan administrator of any changes to their personal information. We don’t require this form to update personal information: a letter, email or verified-identity phone call is also acceptable.
Submitting a form to divide the pension benefit
Form P9 Agreement to have benefits divided under part 6 is used in two cases:
- If the member and former spouse do not have a formal agreement, this form allows them to divide their pension
- If the member and former spouse have an agreement existing from before 1995, this form allows them to come under the Family Law Act
This form must not be filed by the member and former spouse if a complete, signed separation agreement or registered court order dividing the benefits already exits. This form cannot override either document, and it would only apply if a separation agreement or court order is not in place or does not indicate how to divide the benefits.
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