As you are aware, most older Australians can qualify for some type of entitlement. This might be a full or part Age Pension, a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, for those not on a pension, or other special government supplements.

What tends to fly under the radar is just how important your relationship status is when it comes to applying for these entitlements. Whether you are a single or a couple can affect every aspect of your entitlements including:

  • if you get a payment
  • which type of payment that might be, and
  • how much you will receive

You also don’t necessarily have to be living with a partner in order for Centrelink to view you as a couple.

Sound confusing?

You’re not alone. Many older Australians struggle with these definitions of being partnered or otherwise, in particular, with the need to prove relationship status.

Here’s a short summary of the rules. Remember our support team on is here to help you understand these relationship definitions and if you might be required to update Centrelink on any aspect of your status.

The top level reasons why Centrelink may have an interest in your relationship status is that this will determine whether you are paid a single or couples rate of pension (should you qualify). It will also determine which income and asset thresholds you are tested against and therefore the rate you will be paid.

Being a couple is defined as:

  • being married,
  • in a registered relationship, or
  • in a de facto relationship.

Interestingly, de facto relationships are not defined by a minimum time, which begs the question when consecutive sleepovers might become a de facto relationship for pension assessment purposes.

Those in a relationship who then separate, are considered to have become singles if there has been a physical and emotional separation. Such a separation includes partners who separate but continue to live in the same house, in which case a ‘separated under one roof’ declaration is required from each person. Such ‘ex-couples’ will need to have their situation regularly reviewed by Centrelink  to ensure the correct amount is being paid.

Singles who share housing may also need to submit a ‘relationship details form’.

You are required to inform Centrelink of any change in relationship circumstances. Should you not do so, and you receive more than your correct entitlement, you may be required to refund the amount and/or face other penalties. Such changes include couples who start a relationship who also have to complete and return a ‘partner details form’.

At times Centrelink will request a referee verifies your status. The preference is for referees to be of people of ‘some standing’ in the community, such as a minister of religion, doctor, police officer, social or welfare worker, solicitor etc.

Just defining whether you are a single or couple is not as simple as it seems

And there’s a lot riding on getting your information right.

If you are uncertain of your status, or how Centrelink rules might apply you can book a consultation.  Our friendly team are always happy to explain the finer points of Centrelink regulations.  You can also look at the difference in your entitlements based on your relationship status on our free entitlements calculator.

What do you think?

Are these regulations unnecessarily complicated and do you think they are fair?