Last updated 5 August 2016

Social security payment rates, and income and asset tests differ depending on whether a person is single or a member of a couple, and some payments have eligibility requirements that relate to relationship status. Centrelink’s definition of a member of a couple (or de facto relationship) (ss 4(2)-(3) Social Security Act 1991 (Cth)) is different to the definition of de facto in family and tax law. Members of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can be considered members of a couple.

A person can be in a de facto relationship according to Centrelink without realising it. If Centrelink believes there is any question as to whether two people should be considered a couple, Centrelink may undertake an investigation of the two people’s circumstances. They will look at a variety of factors including financial and domestic arrangements, accommodation, social relationships, relationships with children and the commitment between them.

If the person is recently separated, Centrelink will look at whether the couple is now living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis. A couple can be considered separated under one roof if the relationship has ended and the person can provide evidence of this.

If Centrelink declares a person as being a member of a couple, that person can appeal the decision (see Appealing a Centrelink Decision).