Definition of a partner

We need to know if you are single or a member of a couple when considering your eligibility for a payment.


Most of our payments take into account the income and assets of both members of a couple.

Some payments have different rates, depending on whether you are single or have a partner. Other payments are only available to customers who don't have a partner.

Member of a couple

You are a member of a couple if you are living together, or usually live together, and are:

  • married
  • in a registered relationship - opposite sex or same sex, or
  • in a defacto relationship - opposite sex or same sex

If you identify as a member of a couple we do not usually assess your relationship. If we need to assess whether you are a couple, we consider the following factors:

  • finances
  • social relationships
  • nature of your household
  • presence or absence of a sexual relationship, and
  • nature of the commitment

We understand not all couples are the same. Some of these factors may not be in your relationship. A decision can still be made that you are a member of a couple even if all of these are not present in your relationship.

If we decide you are a member of a couple but you believe this will result in unfair hardship, you can ask us to consider if you can be assessed as a single under Section 24 of the Social Security Act 1991 despite being a member of a couple. Each request is assessed on a case by case basis.

Registered relationship

A registered relationship is one that is registered under Australian state or territory laws, including civil partnership schemes. These are currently recognised in:

  • the Australian Capital Territory
  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria

Relationships registered in other countries are not recognised, as they are not approved under Australian state or territory law. However, you can still use this evidence to show you are a couple in a defacto relationship.

Defacto relationship

A defacto relationship is where 2 people who are not married or in a registered relationship, live together as a couple. You are in a defacto relationship from the time you start living together as a couple. There is no minimum time period for a relationship to be seen as defacto.

Determining living separately and apart

Members of a couple are determined to be separated if they are living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis. If you are considered a member of a couple but you are separated and do not live together, it must be established that:

  • you are living apart either permanently or indefinitely, and
  • there has been an estrangement or breakdown in your relationship

Generally, a physical separation as well as an emotional separation is required.

Under the provisions of living separately and apart, you will be considered to be single and paid a single rate of income support payment. The single income and assets test provisions will apply.


Use the Confirmation of Relationship form to let us know that you have become partnered with another customer.

Complete the Relationship details form so we can accurately assess your relationship status.

If you are separated but still live in the same house as your partner, you should also complete the Relationship details – separated under one roof form.

Page last updated: 11 August 2016