What is an ss293 form and when is it used? This Centrelink form is for couples who want to divorce or separate, but live under one roof. In Australia, this is a legal option, and it has become increasingly common for couples who cannot afford to maintain their separate lives. It is also an option for couples who choose to cohabitate together for the sake of their children or for other personal reasons.
Under Australian law, separation under the same roof is recognised as a legitimate form of separation. However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order for it to be considered a valid separation. The main requirement is that the couple must be living independently and not as a couple. Couples who want to prove their separation under one roof must provide as much detail such as:
- Have separate bedrooms and not engage in sexual activity with each other;
- Not share meals or household expenses;
- Have separate finances;
- Not present themselves as a couple to friends, family, or to government agencies;
- Have a clear and agreed-upon plan for separating their assets and responsibilities
Indeed, it may be difficult to prove separation under these conditions since courts might presume that there is a chance of reconciliation. This is especially the case if the separating or divorcing couple has children in the relationship. But how can this Centrelink form help couples separate and divorce amicably under one roof? Read on to find out more.
How the Law Defines Separation and Divorce
Section 48 of the Family Law Act 1975, defines divorce if:
- The marriage irretrievably broke down; and
- The court is satisfied that the couple has separated and lived apart for not less than 12 months. The date starts after the filing of an application for a divorce order.
According to Section 49 of the Family Law Act, married parties are only separated if:
- The relationship was brought to an end due to an action or conduct of a partner;
- Both couples have lived separately and lived apart even if they are in the same house; and
- Neither party provides household services to the other
More Information About the SS293 Form
The separated under one roof form is available for download at Services Australia's site. Both partners must fill out this form either digitally or in writing. This form also helps Services Australia assess whether they will pay the applicant as a single person or as a member of a couple. Here are the basic contents of the form:
1. Relationship Details
This usually includes both the party's basic information such as:
- Legal name
- Date of birth
- Permanent address
- Contact details
- Details on domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence can lodge an apprehended domestic violence order(ADVO) against the apprehender.
- Details on the relationship's current status
Note: Applicants may use their centrelink online account if they want to make changes to any of their basic details.
2. Financial Arrangements
Financial arrangements are an important factor in the ss293 form when assessing separation under one roof in Australia. When couples separate under one roof, they are still living in the same household and sharing some expenses. This may include mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries and even child support.
Depending on the division of labour, one parent may be paying more for child support. Regardless, it is important for separated couples to separate their finances and not share other expenses such as entertainment or personal expenses. Having a clear and agreed-upon financial arrangement is crucial.
Why? This ensures that both parties involved are contributing fairly to household expenses and that neither party feels financially disadvantaged. Couples may need to consider issues such as how to manage or divide their:
- Household expenses
- Debts or ongoing financial obligations
- Joint bank accounts or credit cards
- Joint investments or assets
Note: A partner who is financially incapable of supporting themselves may be eligible to receive spousal maintenance. Click here to read our article that featured a case related to spousal maintenance.
3. Nature of the Household
The nature of the household is a relevant factor in the ss293 form. When a couple is separated under the same home, it is important to consider the living arrangements and the dynamics of the household. Factors that may be relevant in assessing separation under one roof include the:
- Size of the residence and if it is large enough for each party to have their own private space
- Number of children in the household
- Custody arrangements and their impact on the children
- Household arrangements
4. Social Aspects of the Relationship
Social aspects of the relationship are also listed in the ss293 form. This may include:
- Whether family friends, banks, and businesses are aware of the separation
- How the couple presents themselves in public (Are they acting like a couple or not?)
- Whether the couple has plans to spend certain holidays together as a couple/family. Depending on parenting arrangements, it may be best for couples to spend together as a family if it is in the child's best interests.
5. Sexual Relationship
The absence of sexual relations is a relevant factor for couples who want to complete an ss293 form. However, the absence of a sexual relationship does not immediately constitute a conclusion that a relationship has broken down. Regardless, couples can prove the absence of sexual relations by:
- Getting separate rooms
- Verbally communicating about ceasing sexual relations
- Presenting affidavits and objective evidence that can support the absence of sexual relations
6. Nature of Commitment
Each couple's nature of commitment is assessed to see their efforts in distancing themselves from each other. This may include:
- The length of time the parties intend to live together and why
- Whether a partner is listed as an emergency contact
- Whether a partner is willing to provide support if their partner contracts an illness, faces a personal crisis or family-related disputes.
- The likelihood of reconciliation
- Any steps taken to legally end the relationship
Note: The couples may also provide anything that may be relevant that they want to talk about in a phone interview. They must also list down any people who are aware of their current relationship status.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
It's always important to seek legal advice when filling out the form ss293. Though it may be easy for some couples to live together while separated, it may not work for others.
JB Solicitors can help disputed couples decide on the best arrangements they can make for themselves and their children. Our lawyers can also provide mediation and arbitration services if they do not want court proceedings.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.