Your relationship status

If you’re a member of a couple, it can affect what payments you can get and your payment rate.

Getting payments

Your relationship status, if you’re single or a member of a couple, can affect any of these:

  • if you can get a payment
  • the type of payment you get
  • 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.

Having a partner

If you have a partner, we generally consider you a member of a couple. We consider you a member of a couple if you’re either:

  • married
  • in a registered relationship
  • in a de facto relationship.

We may still consider you a member of a couple if you're not physically living with your partner. For example, your partner may fly-in fly-out or live away for work, like military or oil rig workers.

What to do if your partner asks you to confirm your relationship status

If your partner is making a new claim for an income support payment, we need to know their relationship status. This means they may need you to confirm your relationship status with us.

If they ask you to do this, there are 2 options available, depending on the situation. The online claim will tell your partner which option you can use.

You can use either:

If you can use the Partner Confirmation Logon service online, you’ll need a Reference Number and Access Code. Your partner can give you these.

If your partner uses one of our paper claim forms, we may contact you to confirm your relationship with them.

Combined partner claims

If your partner is claiming a payment online, they may be able to make a claim on your behalf at the same time. They’ll be able to do this if all the required criteria is met. We’ll tell them in the claim if they can do this.

If they can, you’ll need to confirm your relationship status with us. We’ll tell you when your partner has made a claim for you. You can review the details they’ve given us and confirm your relationship status using your Centrelink online account through myGov.

What we consider 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 all of the following:

  • financial aspects of your relationship, which is the degree of financial interdependence
  • the nature of your household, the physical set-up of the household such as shared quarters, arrangements for domestic tasks and joint care of children
  • social aspects of your relationship, such as how you present yourselves to society and how others in society view your relationship
  • if you have a sexual relationship
  • nature of your commitment to each other, which is the level of commitment you have to each other.

You can be a member of a couple even if all of these things aren’t part of your relationship.

If you tell us you’re a member of a couple, we don’t usually assess your relationship against these things. But we may look at them if your circumstances change.

What special provisions are

If you think being a member of a couple causes you unfair hardship, call 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.

Defining relationship types

We only assess relationship types as married, registered or de facto.

What marriage is

Marriage is the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Read the Marriage Act 1961 on the Federal Register of Legislation website.

What a registered relationship is

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
  • Queensland
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • South Australia.

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.

What a de facto relationship is

A de facto relationship is where you and your partner meet all of these conditions:

  • you’re in a relationship similar to a married couple
  • you’re not married or in a registered relationship
  • you're over the age of consent in the state or territory you live in
  • you're not in a prohibited relationship.

There’s no minimum time period for a relationship to be de facto.

Relationship status for ABSTUDY, Youth Allowance and Disability Support Pension

Different rules apply if you're any of these:

We work out your ABSTUDY Living Allowance or Youth Allowance payment based on your parents' income. If you get Disability Support Pension and live with your parents, we’ll usually pay you the dependent rate of DSP.

If you get one of these payments and you’re dependent, we don’t consider you as a member of a couple.

Boyfriends, girlfriends and non-binary relationships

If you have a boyfriend, girlfriend or are in a non-binary relationship, we may consider you as being in a de facto relationship. This depends on the circumstances of your relationship.

If we assess your relationship type as de facto, it means you’re a member of a couple.

You need to tell us about your boyfriend, girlfriend or non-binary relationship. We may need to assess your relationship to decide if you’re a member of a couple so we pay you the right amount.

Living separately and apart

We understand living arrangements aren’t the same for all couples. We may decide you’re separated if you’re living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis. For us to assess you as living separately and apart we need to confirm some things including:

  • you and your partner are living apart permanently or indefinitely
  • there’s been an estrangement or breakdown in your relationship.

Generally, there must be a physical and emotional separation.

If we decide 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.

Updating relationship changes

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.

To tell us about a change in your relationship, you may need to complete a form. The way you tell us will depend on which payment or benefit you get.

When you start a relationship

If you start a relationship and get any Centrelink payments or concession cards, complete and return the partner details form.

When you separate

You need to tell us if you separate from your partner. You can tell us using your Centrelink online account through myGov. You can do it this way if you get one of the following payments:

You can use the separation details form if you can’t tell us online. If you told us you’re separated as part of a new claim for a payment, you don’t need to use this form.

If you only get a families payment and won’t be claiming another payment, when you separate call us on our Families line. Families payments include:

  • Family Tax Benefit
  • Child Care Subsidy.

If you’re separated and live in the same house as your ex-partner, you need to tell us. You’ll each need to complete and return a Relationship details – Separated under one roof form.

If it will put your safety at risk, your ex-partner doesn’t need to complete this form. If you have any safety concerns with asking your ex-partner to complete it, please tell us on your form.

If you’re separated under one roof, we’ll need to regularly review your living arrangements. This is so we pay you the right amount.

When you’re single and share accommodation

If you're single and share housing, you may need to complete and return the Relationship details form. This includes sharing with anyone other than an immediate family member 16 years or older.

The person you share with will also need to complete and return the Relationship details form. They don’t need to do this if it puts your safety at risk. If you have safety concerns, please tell us on the form.

Using a referee to verify your relationship status

We may need to ask a third party, a person we call a referee, to verify your relationship status. We’ll tell you when we need referee details.

Who can act as a referee to verify your relationship status

Your referee must be someone over 18 who can confirm your relationship status. But they can’t be any of the following:

  • your parent or step parent
  • a sibling or child
  • your correspondence nominee
  • your most recent ex-partner.

Your referee should be a person who’s familiar with your circumstances. It’s preferable that a referee be a person of some standing in the community. For example, a minister of religion, doctor, police officer, counsellor, social or welfare worker, solicitor, or community leader.

If they provide a false declaration, they may face penalties.

Getting support for relationship safety concerns

If you’re concerned about your safety, we can help. We can support you if there’s a family and domestic violence situation. If you’re in, have left, or are preparing to leave this relationship, please talk with us.

Page last updated: 1 April 2022