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For students who find it impossible or unsuitable to put one parent's financial information on the FAFSA, such as in cases where a parent is abusive, neglectful, incarcerated or absent, universities can exercise their professional judgment and grant a dependency override to the student and disregard their parent's information.
Filing for a dependency override can be a lengthy process that varies across universities. Most schools require written evidence explaining the situation and why the student cannot submit a parent's financial information.
Written evidence may include law enforcement documents, explanatory letters from counselors, social workers, clergy members or other relevant information that explains your special circumstance.
» MORE: FAFSA checklist
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Steps for filling out the FAFSA for students requiring a dependency override
In Step 3 (Student), check "yes" for any applicable questions. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, FAFSA considers you to be an independent student, and you can skip Step 4 (Parent). If you cannot answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may need to apply for a dependency override with your university.
FAFSA on the Web will ask whether you are able to provide information about your parents. Indicate that you have special circumstances that make you unable to provide this information.
Submit the FAFSA without the information of the parent whose whereabouts you do not know. Although your FAFSA will be submitted, if you have not answered "yes" to the questions that determine independent student status (explained in Step 1), your FAFSA will not be fully processed. You need to contact your school regarding further steps.
Contact your university's financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They will likely ask you to fill out additional forms or submit letters from counselors or other parties who know your situation well.
Colleges and institutions have up to 60 days after you enroll to make a dependency override decision.
Dependency override changes for the FAFSA
The FAFSA Simplification Act, a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, listed changes to the FAFSA. The Department of Education began implementing these changes on July 1, 2023, with updates scheduled for completion by July 1, 2024.
In addition to a simplified form and expanded aid eligibility, FAFSA Simplification has adjusted the dependency override process. One notable change is that if an institution grants you a dependency override, you will typically not have to confirm an unusual circumstance yearly.
However, your institution may reach out if they need to address conflicting information about your situation. If you received a dependency override from another institution in the current or prior award year, you may have to submit documentation from that school’s financial aid office.
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