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Input sought on Nova Scotia pension division and other family property matters

Dante Manna

The Nova Scotia Government is seeking input by way of public survey or written submissions on proposed changes to family property law that would, among other things, affect pension division between former spouses.

The Matrimonial Property Act (“MPA”) provides for division of property, including the pension benefits of either spouse, upon breakdown of a marriage or registered domestic partnership in the province.

Pension division is also regulated by the Pension Benefits Act (“PBA”). However, there is some inconsistency between the MPA and PBA on how pension assets can be divided. The background paper describes this situation as follows:

Under Nova Scotia pension law, a spouse or partner who is not the pension plan member is entitled to a maximum of 50% of the part of the pension that was earned during the relationship. Courts have, on occasion, ordered that a spouse or partner get more than 50% of the pension earned during the relationship. However, it is unclear if the pension plan administrator can do this.

The Government now proposes a new law to provide, among other things, that:

…if a court ordered one person to get more than 50%, the pension plan would be able to pay this amount. Further, in certain circumstances the court could order that the spouse who is not the pension plan member should get part of the pension that was earned before the relationship.

The survey asks questions including:

  • Are there circumstances where it would be important for the court to have the ability to order a spouse or common-law partner who is not the member or pensioner of the pension plan to receive greater than 50% of the pension earned during the marriage or common-law relationship?
  • Are there circumstances where it would be important for the court to have the ability to order the full amount of a pension, not just the portion earned during the marriage or relationship, to be split?

All Nova Scotians are invited to provide feedback on these and other questions by completing the online survey or making written submissions by February 20, 2020.  The Government will also be meeting with legal stakeholders later in February. Pension plan administrators would benefit from greater clarity in the law. Our Pensions and Benefits group would be pleased to discuss this consultation with you and assist with any submissions to the Government.

This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Pensions & Benefits group.


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