If you’re a member of a couple, it can affect what payments you can get and your payment rate.
We need to know if you’re single or a member of a couple. Your relationship status can affect:
- the type of payment you get
- if you can get a payment, and
- the amount you get
Your income and assets will likely affect your payment. If you have a partner, their income and assets may also affect your payment.
Under social security law, you’re considered a member of a couple if you and the person you have a relationship with are:
- in a registered relationship - different sex or same sex, or
- in a de facto relationship - different sex or same sex
You’re not considered a member of a couple if you and the person are living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis.
You may still be a member of a couple if you are not physically living with your partner. For example, your partner may fly-in-fly-out or live away for work, such as military or oil rig workers.
What is considered when assessing a member of a couple
To determine if you’re a member of a couple, we may need to assess your relationship. We’ll consider the following factors:
- financial aspects of your relationship
- nature of your household
- social aspects of your relationship
- if you have a sexual relationship
- nature of your commitment to each other
If you tell us you’re a member of a couple, we don’t usually assess your relationship against these factors. We may look at these factors if your circumstances change.
We can decide you’re a member of a couple even if all of these factors aren’t part of your relationship.
If it is decided you are a member of a couple but you believe this will result in unfair hardship, contact us on your regular payment line. We may consider you as single under special provisions in the Social Security Act 1991. We assess each request on a case by case basis.
You may be married or in a registered, de facto or multiple relationship.
A registered relationship is one registered under Australian state or territory law. This includes civil unions and is recognised in:
- the Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Tasmania, and
Australian state or territory law doesn’t recognise relationships registered in other countries. You can still use this evidence to show you and your partner are in a de facto relationship.
De facto relationship
A de facto relationship is where you and your partner aren’t married or in a registered relationship but you have a relationship as a couple. We generally consider you and your partner are in a de facto relationship from the time you start living as a couple. There’s no minimum time period for a relationship to be de facto.
A multiple relationship is when you have more than 1 partner at the same time. We’ll assess your relationship with each partner separately to decide if you’re a member of a couple.
When we assess your claim for a payment, we look at each of your partners’ income and assets. We use this to assess if you’re eligible and your payment rate. The lowest payment rate will apply. Your income and assets may equally affect the rate of payment of each of your partners.
Living separately and apart
We understand living arrangements aren’t the same for all couples.
For us to assess you as living separately and apart we need to confirm:
- you and your partner are living apart permanently or indefinitely, and
- there’s been an estrangement or breakdown in your relationship
Generally, there must be a physical as well as an emotional separation.
If it is decided you’re living separately and apart, your payment will be at the single payment rate. Only your income and assets will affect your payment eligibility and rate.
Tell us about your relationships
You need to tell us when your circumstances change. This includes changes to your relationships. If you don’t, we may pay you the wrong amount and you’ll have to repay the money. There may be other penalties.
If you get a payment from us, use these forms to tell us about your relationship.
When you start a relationship
When you start a relationship, complete and return:
- the confirmation of relationship form if your partner also gets a payment from us, or
- the partner details form if your partner doesn’t get a payment from us
When you separate
If you’re separated but still live in the same house as your previous partner, complete and return the relationship details – separated under one roof form.
You can use the separation details form to let us know you’ve separated from your partner. You don’t need to use this form if:
- you get Parenting Payment partnered and you want to claim Parenting Payment single, or
- you told us you’re separated as part of a new claim for another payment
If you’re single and share a house
You may need to complete and return the relationship details form if you're single and share housing with anyone other than an immediate family member aged 16 years or older.
Relationships and safety concerns
If you need to tell us about a change in your relationship and you’re concerned about your safety, there may be help we can provide. We can support you if you’re in, have left, or are preparing to leave a family and domestic violence situation.