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Pension Blunders Botch Up Divorce

Financial shenanigans during divorce are not atypical, especially where property division is at stake. Undisclosed facts, false numbers, hidden assets - they might be no surprise coming from one's ex-, but when the government is the culprit, the result can be a colossal bureaucratic mess. That's what one Ottawa woman discovered when pension errors came to light only after she signed away half her property.

Separation Agreement Based On False Information

Laura Provost and her husband of 24 years decided to call it quits a year and a half after she retired from her post at the Canada Revenue Agency. Both had received pension reports and relied on the accuracy of the information therein to split their property. The ex-couple settled their terms amicably in a separation agreement.

Within weeks of signing, the government notified Provost that her pension was being reduced due to a miscalculation. Provost requested a second pension report and found more errors. It listed her pensionable years worked during the marriage as 16, a shortfall of three years and $20,000 in pension earnings. She probed further, only to discover that her employment records on file were incomplete.

Internal emails obtained by Provost's lawyer reveal that upon retiring, Provost had not been fully informed and had been given "erroneous advice" about her pension. Another email suggests that her husband's pension also contained errors.

Recourse Possible?

When signed, valid separation agreements are legally binding. In many cases, once property has been settled, it's usually game over. A couple can make their own amendments later, but when financial interests are at stake, coming to an equitable mutual agreement after the fact can be tricky.

Having ended her marriage on an amicable note, Provost could be one of the lucky ones where the door to backtracking may remain open. Meanwhile, the divorce remains in limbo as she waits for governmental engines to move and provide her with the accurate numbers she needs to finalize her divorce.

Dividing property? Negotiating a separation agreement?

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