The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.1.M.50 Member of a couple


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

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


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.

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

The Australian social security system generally does not recognise the existence of multiple relationships, regardless of whether they were formed within Australia or overseas. Where a person declares they are part of a multiple relationship their circumstances should be considered under section 24 of the SSAct.

Where an individual has more than one partner, the individual should be considered to be in a relationship with the person they are either legally married to, or in a registered relationship with. Where the individual is not married or in a registered relationship, the relationship that commenced earliest will be recognised for social security purposes.

Where other individuals with children that are part of the relationship are regarded as single, the MAT will not apply to them for FTB purposes. This is because they are not entitled to apply for maintenance as they are considered to be in a relationship with the other parent for child support purposes.

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 …, section 24 Person may be treated as not being a member of a couple (subsection 4(2))

Policy reference: FA Guide 3.1.5 Maintenance action test for FTB Part A

SS Guide 1.1.M.120 Member of a couple, 2.2.5 Verifying membership of a couple

CS Guide 2.1.1 Applications for assessment

Last reviewed: