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Centrelink Q&A: Can I apply for an Age Pension if my partner is younger?

A reader would like to know if they can apply for the Age Pension if their partner is not of pension age.

The good news is they can, but their partner’s assets and income will be taken into account under the Centrelink assessment.

The application form for an Age Pension requires details of your partner. You must provide the identity details for your partner, even if your partner is not old enough to be applying for an Age Pension. Thus, you must provide personal data regarding both members of the couple even though you are asking for an Age Pension for only one partner.

When you reach the Age Pension age and your partner has not, you will still be assessed under the income and assets test as part of a couple, and will receive the couple’s rate of Age Pension, even if only one member is eligible.

Centrelink defines a couple as any two adults who share domestic arrangements and present socially as ‘a couple’.

For Centrelink purposes you are considered to be a member of a couple if you and your partner are living together, or usually live together, and are:

  • married; or
  • in a registered relationship; or
  • in a de facto relationship.

If you start a relationship you will need to let Centrelink know by completing the partner’s detail form.

Centrelink does not consider you a member of a couple if you are living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis. Although you can still be a member of a couple if you are not physically living with your partner.

A member of a couple is determined by circumstances including:

  • financial aspects of the relationship
  • nature of the household
  • social aspects of the relationship
  • any sexual relationship
  • nature of the people’s commitment to each other.

If you are separated but living in the same dwelling, you will also have to let Centrelink know by filling in the Relationship details – Separated under one roof form.

Can you apply for a special exemption?

If Centrelink decides you are a member of a couple, but you believe this will cause you unfair hardship, there are special provisions in the Social Security Act where you can apply to be assessed as a single.

In situations where the department considers that there is a special reason in the particular instance, and it would be unfair to administer the rate of payment, or income and assets test provisions that apply to couples, the secretary can determine, under the provisions of section 24, that the person should not be treated as a member of a couple.

When section 24 is applied, the person is deemed NOT to be a member of a couple and is treated as a ‘single’ person for all purposes of the Social Security Act. As a result, the person is paid the single rate of payment and only their individual income and assets are included in the assessment of the rate of their payment.

It is not possible to predict all the situations where section 24 should be applied as the circumstances of each particular situation need to be considered case by case.

Three questions that need to be considered as part of the assessment while looking at the full circumstances of the case are:

  • Is there a special reason to be considered in this couple’s circumstances?
  • Is there a lack of being able to pool resources for the couple as a result of the circumstances?
  • Is there financial difficulty as a result of the couple’s circumstances?

How is superannuation assessed in this situation?
While one member of a couple is not of pension age, you may be eligible for a higher rate of pension during this time. This is because any superannuation held in the younger partner’s name is not counted as an asset until they reach Age Pension age.

Your partner’s super will be in one of two phases – accumulation (before drawing down) or decumulation (once they’ve reached preservation age and decided to draw it down).

If your partner is under Age Pension age and their super is in accumulation mode, then there is no need to declare it.

If it is in decumulation phase – and they have started an income stream – then you do need to declare it.

If your partner is under Age Pension age, you can transfer some of your super to your partner’s super account, which this means it will not be counted in your assets and may make you eligible for a higher level of payments.

Have you been in this situation? Did you move super around? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Centrelink Q&A: When can I apply for the Age Pension

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writershttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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