Domestic violence, social security law and the couple rule

Project summary - RP.17.02

The couple rule is used to determine if a social security applicant is separated and/ or single or a member of a couple. If considered a member of a couple, her and her perpetrator's income and assets are assessed jointly. This rule ties women’s access to social security payment to the income and assets of their perpetrator. It uses reports of domestic violence as evidence of a committed relationship and evidence of domestic violence is interpreted as evidence for a relationship.

This project aims to detail the dynamic between domestic violence, social security payment, and the couple rule. It will examine the pre-existing data set of Administrative Appeal Tribunal decisions of couple rule matters and compare this to decisions made in New Zealand (where domestic violence is interpreted as evidence of no relationship). These data sources provide rich, reliable and non-invasive qualitative detail of social security decision making. 


Project Lead 

Dr Lyndal Sleep, Griffith University (Early Career Researcher)

Research expertise

  1. Prof Heather Douglas, University of Queensland
  2. Ms Zoe Rathus, Griffith University

Priority populations

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women, older women, women with disability, women who are, or have been, incarcerated, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex women and women who live in rural and remote areas (as a focus).

Project length

<1 year