A multiple relationship is one where a person has more than one concurrent member of a couple relationship. For example, the relationships could comprise a claimant/recipient with any combination of male or female partners. A separate member of a couple assessment is undertaken for each relationship.
Explanation: The existence of a multiple relationship is not excluded by the definition of a de facto relationship in the SSAct. SSAct sections 4(2) and 4(3) allow for a broader interpretation of relationships than is found in the Marriage Act 1961. Whether such a relationship exists is a question of fact, determined by the application of the matters in SSAct subsection 4(3) to each couple combination in the group.
A person is a member of a couple under the SSAct if they are living with another person as their partner, where both people are over the age of consent (applicable to the relevant state or territory), are living on a permanent or indefinite basis, are not in a prohibited relationship (subsections 4(12) and 4(13)) and are either:
In determining if a person is in a member of a couple relationship, consideration is given to the following 5 factors:
Further details are discussed in 126.96.36.199 Determining a De Facto Relationship.
Multiple (polygamous) marriages conducted overseas are not recognised as legal marriages in Australia. However, for social security purposes, overseas marriage documentation is viewed as a strong indicator that the people named on the documentation are living together in a member of a couple relationship.
For the purposes of the administration of the SSAct it is only necessary to determine whether each individual is either legally married, in a registered relationship (whether of the same sex or a different sex) or in a de facto relationship (whether of the same sex or a different sex).
Act reference: SSAct section 4(12) and section 4(13) Prohibited relationship
If a person is assessed as being a 'member of a couple', they are partnered for the purpose of determining eligibility for a benefit, they are also partnered for income and asset test purposes, and they receive the partnered rate of payment. This means that the income and assets of the couple must be taken into account in determining the rate of payment of the partner.
If a person has multiple partners and has personal income or assets, the legislation allows for their income and assets to be assessed against the social security entitlement of each and every one of their partners.
Each party to a multiple concurrent relationship only receives one payment, which is paid at the partnered rate.
Each person's income and assets is assessed against the income and assets of each of their partners. The lowest rate payable is applied.
Note: Across the social security system, the different rates of payment and income and assets limits available to partnered and single people recognise the ability of couples to gain considerable financial advantage by pooling their resources and sharing living costs. It is a longstanding provision of the social security system that members of a couple should rely on one another for support before calling on the resources of the general community.
Act reference: SSAct section 4(2) Member of a couple-general, section 4(3) Member of a couple-criteria for forming opinion about relationship
Policy reference: SS Guide 188.8.131.52 Determining a De Facto Relationship
Last reviewed: 3 May 2010