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.120 Member of a couple


This definition applies to all payments.

Definition: member of a couple

A person is a member of a couple under the SSAct if they have a relationship with another person, where both people are over the age of consent (applicable to the relevant state or territory), are committed to each other on a permanent or indefinite basis, are not in a prohibited relationship (subsections 4(12) and 4(13)) and are either:

  • legally married, or
  • in a registered relationship (, or
  • in a de facto relationship (

Note: On 8 December 2017, the Marriage Act 1961 was amended to redefine marriage as 'a union of 2 people' and introduced non-gendered language so that the requirements of the Act apply equally to all marriages. It also enabled same-sex marriages that have been, or will be, solemnised under the law of a foreign country to be recognised in Australia.

In determining if a person is in a member of a couple relationship, 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 people, and
  • the nature of the people's commitment to each other.

The DSS Secretary can determine that a person should not be considered as a member of a couple for some income support payments (

Act reference: 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…, 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…

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