1.1.M.50 Member of a couple

Summary

This topic provides information about the term 'member of a couple'. It discusses:

  • the definition of member of a couple, and
  • multiple relationships.

Definition

The term 'member of a couple' has the same meaning under the FAAct as under the SSAct.

An individual is a member of a couple with another individual under the SSAct if they are:

  • legally married or in a registered relationship and not living apart on a permanent or indefinite basis, or
  • in a de facto relationship and are over the age of consent and not in a prohibited relationship.

Note: Prior to 1 July 2009 same sex couples were not recognised for FA purposes.

In determining if an individual is a member of a couple, consideration must be given to the following 5 factors:

  • the financial aspects of the relationship,
  • the nature of the household,
  • the social aspects of the relationship,
  • any sexual relationship between the individuals, and
  • the nature of the individual's commitment to each other.

Multiple relationships

Multiple relationships are where an individual has more than one partner at the same time. For example, the relationships could comprise of a claimant/recipient with any combination of male or female partners. Under the SSAct, it is possible for an individual to be in more than one relationship at the same time for the purposes of FTB. However, if the Secretary is satisfied that the person should, for a special reason in the particular case, not be treated as a member of a couple, the Secretary may determine that the person is not to be treated as a member of a couple.

This is to be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of the family. This could include extenuating circumstance, such as a person's partner being in gaol or suffering serious illness.

The central partner's income is included in the ATI calculations for each of the multiple partners. There is no discretion to split or apportion a central member's income between the multiple partners.

Act reference: FAAct section 3(1)-'member of a couple'

SSAct section 4(2) Member of a couple-general, section 4(3) Member of a couple-criteria for forming opinion about relationship, section 4(3A) The Secretary must not form the opinion that the relationship… , section 4(6) Member of a couple-special excluding determination, section 4(6A) A person who…

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.M.120 Member of a couple, 2.2.5 Verifying Membership of a Couple

Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision Williams and Secretary, Department of Social Services (Social services second review) (2017) AATA 414

Last reviewed: 14 August 2017