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. Determining separated under one roof


A person living in the same residence as their former partner is considered to be ‘separated under one roof’ where there is a genuine breakdown in a relationship, resulting in one or more parties having no intention to reconcile.

Determining separated under one roof

Separation means more than a physical separation, it involves a destruction of the relationship resulting in one or both parties severing the relationship on a permanent or indefinite basis.

Separated under one-roof assessments are made under the same principles as determining if a member of a couple relationship exists ( The decision maker must have regard to all the known circumstances under the 5 factors in making a determination, as well as the reason the 2 people remain living together, such as if there is shared care for mutual children, or if there are cultural or financial reasons.

When assessing separated under one roof, the decision maker may interview both parties or ask them to provide additional information about their circumstances. Sensitivity is needed when gathering evidence and consideration should be given to:

  • the cultural and/or linguistic background of the parties
  • the potential for, and fear of disclosure of sexual preference or orientation
  • the presence of family and/or domestic violence, and

    Explanation: A person who has experienced family and/or domestic violence may be less able to financially support themselves. As a result, it is not uncommon for a person who has experienced family and/or domestic violence to remain living under the same roof as the alleged perpetrator, which should be considered in determining if a person is separated under one roof.

  • other circumstances which may make a person vulnerable.

Generally, 2 people living separated under one roof are more likely to live similarly to 2 sharers, including:

  • splitting utilities and rent/mortgage payments (where parties jointly own their home)
  • doing their own shopping, cleaning, washing, household maintenance and gardening (or having a roster/agreement)
  • having separate living arrangements within the shared home, such separate bedrooms and bathrooms, and
  • having arrangements in place for the use of shared spaces.

As well as:

  • not supporting one another emotionally or financially
  • not engaging in social activities together, and
  • taking actions to separate financial arrangements, such as closure of joint accounts, removing the other as a beneficiary to their will, superannuation, life insurance policy etc.

    Explanation: Elderly childless people, who do not plan to re-partner, with a long history together, and who remain on good terms may keep their former partner as a beneficiary of their estate, where no other beneficiary exists.

Joint ownership of a property may be a valid reason why a couple remains separated under the one roof when financial and legal implications are taken into account. If 2 people are living separated under one roof and have joint home ownership, consideration should be given to:

  • any reason they are choosing not to sell the home and move into separate homes, and
  • if legal advice has been sought regarding a property settlement, or if there is a property settlement taking place.

If the parties jointly own more than one property, the decision maker must ascertain why one party has not moved into another property.

In situations where one party is residing in a separate fully self-contained dwelling attached to the home or on the property, such as a caravan, granny flat or other secondary dwelling, the person is more likely to be living separately and apart.


Separated under one roof determinations must be reviewed regularly to ensure the relationship has not been reconciled and the correct rate continues to be paid.

If, as result of a separated under one roof review, the evidence supports a member of a couple determination, the decision maker should consider if there are any periods of debt, for example where the person has:

  • failed to inform Centrelink of their change of circumstances due to the reconciliation of their relationship, or
  • falsely reported their separation.

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 that …

Policy reference: SS Guide Determining member of a couple relationships

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