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Ontario Court rules survivor pension benefits must be included in net family property, declines request to divide pension at the source


February 21, 2024

Survivor pension benefits payable on the member’s death must be included in the spouse’s net family property for the purposes of equalization, an Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled.

There is almost a 30-year age gap between Keith Murch (applicant) and Kristine Lewis (respondent), a fact that was key in Mr. Murch’s decision to opt for a survivor pension that pays a reduced benefit, but would have allowed his wife to receive 100 per cent of the pension after he dies.

Following their separation, Ms. Lewis argued that including the survivor pension in her net family property would cause her financial hardship for a benefit she may never receive. However, the judge ruled that her entitlement to the benefits was a “contingent interest in a future stream of income that could be actuarially valued,” qualifying it as property under s. 4(1) of Ontario’s Family Law Act.

The judge also declined Ms. Lewis’s request to remove the pension from net family property and divide it at source under pension legislation in New Brunswick, where the pension was registered, finding that such a departure from Ontario’s Pension Benefits Act was not justified by the evidence.

Click on more information below to read the judge's decision:

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