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Who's My Parent Chart

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Am I Dependent or Independent?
Dependent students are required to report parent information on the FAFSA. Parent means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent
and/or step parent. A student that is determined to be homeless or self-supporting is considered independent so no parent info is needed.

You must meet certain criteria to be declared an independent student for the FAFSA:
  •         Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
  •         Be an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or was a ward of the court when 13 years or older
  •         Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty for other than training purposes
  •         Be a graduate or professional student
  •         Be a married individual
  •         Have legal dependents other than a spouse
  •         Be an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship
  •         Be a homeless youth
  •         Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence because of other unusual circumstances.
Tips for Filing as an Independent Student
Filing as an independent student doesn’t mean that you can leave the parent section of the FAFSA blank.  Check with your school first before submitting it. For example, graduate health profession students may be required to provide parental data even if they are independent. Don't forget to complete the section that asks you for the number of people in your household. Be sure to include yourself.

Changing Your Status
Dependent students may change their status. Keep in mind that most students will not qualify for a change in status. Circumstances tend to be extreme (such as abandonment or physical abuse) to warrant the change. Simply living in your own apartment or house is not enough to justify your reasoning.

You can start by filing a Dependency Review Form, which can be requested from a financial aid administrator at your school. You also must provide documentation explaining your situation. Your case is then reviewed by a committee or financial aid office at your college.

Divorced Parents
If your parents are separated or divorced, the custodial parent is responsible for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The custodial parent for federal student aid purposes is the parent you lived the most during the past 12 months. (The twelve-month period is the twelve-month period ending on the FAFSA application date, not the previous calendar year). Note that this is not necessarily the same as the parent who has legal custody. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, the parent who provided you with the most financial support during the past twelve months should fill out the FAFSA. This is probably the parent who claimed you as a dependent on their tax return. If you have not received any support from either parent during the past 12 months, use the most recent calendar year for which you received some support from a parent.
Biological parents who never got married are treated the same as parents who are divorced. Note, however, that any child support and/or alimony received from the non-custodial parent must be included on the FAFSA.
  1. Financial aid applications can be somewhat confusing because there are several different criteria applied for different kinds of parenthood: The parent with whom the child lived the most during the past 12 months (the 12 months ending on the FAFSA application date).
  2. The parent who provided more financial support to the child during the past 12 months.
  3. The parent who provided the most financial support to the child during the most recent calendar year for which either parent provided more support to the child.
  4. The parent who provided more than half the child's support (and will continue to do so).
  5. The parent who has legal custody.
  6. The parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their tax return.

As noted above 1, 2 and 3 are used for determining the custodial parent, with the first being primary.

Obligations of Stepparents
My parents are divorced, and the parent I'm living with has remarried. Does my stepparent have to report his or her income and assets on the FAFSA?
Yes, provided that the parent you're living with is the one filling out the FAFSA (your custodial parent). If your stepparent is married to them at the time you fill out the FAFSA, they must report their income and assets even if they weren't married to them in the previous year.

Remarried parents
If your parent has remarried, the income of that parent's spouse shall be included in determining the parent's adjusted available income only if --
  • The student's parent and the stepparent are married as of the date of application for the award year concerned; and
  • The student is not an independent student.
My custodial parent remarried and signed a prenuptial agreement that clears the stepparent from financial responsibility for my education. Why does my stepparent have to provide financial information on the FAFSA?

Prenuptial agreements are ignored by the federal need analysis process. Regardless of any prenuptial agreements to the contrary. If a stepparent marries the parent, he or she is considered responsible for supporting the parent and children even if he or she is unwilling to do so.

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Am I Dependent or Independent?
Dependent students are required to report parent information on the FAFSA. Parent means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent
and/or step parent. A student that is determined to be homeless or self-supporting is considered independent so no parent info is needed.

You must meet certain criteria to be declared an independent student for the FAFSA:
  •         Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
  •         Be an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or was a ward of the court when 13 years or older
  •         Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty for other than training purposes
  •         Be a graduate or professional student
  •         Be a married individual
  •         Have legal dependents other than a spouse
  •         Be an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship
  •         Be a homeless youth
  •         Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence because of other unusual circumstances.
Tips for Filing as an Independent Student
Filing as an independent student doesn’t mean that you can leave the parent section of the FAFSA blank.  Check with your school first before submitting it. For example, graduate health profession students may be required to provide parental data even if they are independent. Don't forget to complete the section that asks you for the number of people in your household. Be sure to include yourself.

Changing Your Status
Dependent students may change their status. Keep in mind that most students will not qualify for a change in status. Circumstances tend to be extreme (such as abandonment or physical abuse) to warrant the change. Simply living in your own apartment or house is not enough to justify your reasoning.

You can start by filing a Dependency Review Form, which can be requested from a financial aid administrator at your school. You also must provide documentation explaining your situation. Your case is then reviewed by a committee or financial aid office at your college.

Divorced Parents
If your parents are separated or divorced, the custodial parent is responsible for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The custodial parent for federal student aid purposes is the parent you lived the most during the past 12 months. (The twelve-month period is the twelve-month period ending on the FAFSA application date, not the previous calendar year). Note that this is not necessarily the same as the parent who has legal custody. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, the parent who provided you with the most financial support during the past twelve months should fill out the FAFSA. This is probably the parent who claimed you as a dependent on their tax return. If you have not received any support from either parent during the past 12 months, use the most recent calendar year for which you received some support from a parent.
Biological parents who never got married are treated the same as parents who are divorced. Note, however, that any child support and/or alimony received from the non-custodial parent must be included on the FAFSA.
  1. Financial aid applications can be somewhat confusing because there are several different criteria applied for different kinds of parenthood: The parent with whom the child lived the most during the past 12 months (the 12 months ending on the FAFSA application date).
  2. The parent who provided more financial support to the child during the past 12 months.
  3. The parent who provided the most financial support to the child during the most recent calendar year for which either parent provided more support to the child.
  4. The parent who provided more than half the child's support (and will continue to do so).
  5. The parent who has legal custody.
  6. The parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their tax return.

As noted above 1, 2 and 3 are used for determining the custodial parent, with the first being primary.

Obligations of Stepparents
My parents are divorced, and the parent I'm living with has remarried. Does my stepparent have to report his or her income and assets on the FAFSA?
Yes, provided that the parent you're living with is the one filling out the FAFSA (your custodial parent). If your stepparent is married to them at the time you fill out the FAFSA, they must report their income and assets even if they weren't married to them in the previous year.

Remarried parents
If your parent has remarried, the income of that parent's spouse shall be included in determining the parent's adjusted available income only if --
  • The student's parent and the stepparent are married as of the date of application for the award year concerned; and
  • The student is not an independent student.
My custodial parent remarried and signed a prenuptial agreement that clears the stepparent from financial responsibility for my education. Why does my stepparent have to provide financial information on the FAFSA?

Prenuptial agreements are ignored by the federal need analysis process. Regardless of any prenuptial agreements to the contrary. If a stepparent marries the parent, he or she is considered responsible for supporting the parent and children even if he or she is unwilling to do so.