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. Types of member of a couple relationships


A person is a member of a couple (1.1.M.120) under the SSAct, if they are legally married, in a registered relationship, or in a de facto relationship and are not living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis.

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Legally married

Marriage is the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life, solemnised by an authorised celebrant as prescribed within the Marriage Act 1961.

Act reference: SSAct section 4(2)(a) Member of a couple—general

Marriage Act 1961

Registered relationship

A registered relationship is one that has been registered under a prescribed law of an Australian state or territory as a prescribed kind of relationship. They may also be known in particular states and territories as civil unions, civil partnerships and significant relationships. This kind of relationship is currently not registerable in the Northern Territory or Western Australia.

State or territory Act reference Prescribed kind of relationship
Australian Capital Territory Civil Unions Act 2012
Domestic Relationships Act 1994
A civil union as described in subsection 6(1) of that Act.
A relationship as a couple between 2 adult persons who meet the eligibility criteria for entering into a civil partnership mentioned in section 37C of that Act.
New South Wales Relationships Register Act 2010 Two adults who are in a relationship as a couple may apply to the Registrar for registration of their relationship, mentioned in section 5(1) of that Act.
Queensland Civil Partnerships Act 2011 Two adults who are in a relationship as a couple who meet the eligibility criteria as stated in section 5 of that Act may enter into a registered relationship by having their relationship registered under section 9(1)(a) of that Act.
South Australia Relationships Register Act 2016 A relationship as a couple between 2 adults who meet the eligibility criteria mentioned in section 5 of that Act for entry into a registered relationship.
Tasmania Relationship Act 2003 A significant relationship as defined in section 4 of that Act.
Victoria Relationship Act 2008 A registered domestic relationship as defined in section 3 of that Act.

Note: While, for the purposes of social security, a relationship registered outside of prescribed law of an Australian state or territory, such as one registered overseas or by the local government is not recognised as a registered relationship, it may still be used as an indicator that a person is in a de facto relationship.

Act reference: Acts Interpretation Act 1901 section 2E Registered relationships

SSAct section 4(2)(aa) Member of a couple—general

De facto relationship

A de facto relationship is where 2 people have a relationship as a couple on a genuine domestic basis.

To be considered as being in a de facto relationship, both people must be over the age of consent (applicable to the relevant state or territory) and not in a prohibited relationship.

For a relationship to be considered de facto for the purposes of meeting independence for young people claiming/receiving YA, DSP and ABSTUDY, it must have continued for a duration of 12 months for YA and DSP except in special circumstances where 6 months’ duration is accepted and 6 months for ABSTUDY.

For all other claimants/recipients there is no minimum period required before a relationship can be determined to be de facto.

The Australian social security system does NOT recognise the existence of multiple relationships, regardless of what country they were formed in. Where a person is a de facto partner of a multiple relationship, their circumstances may be considered under section 24 (

Act reference: SSAct section 4(2)(b) Member of a couple—general, section 4(12) and section 4(13) Prohibited relationship

Policy reference: SS Guide Determining member of a couple relationships, Member of a couple - age of consent

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