FAFSA Guide

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: Dependency Override

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Filling Out the FAFSA: Dependency Override

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The FAFSA can be difficult for students with non-traditional families. For students who find it impossible or unsuitable to put one parent’s financial information, 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 overrides consists of a lengthy process that varies across universities, and most schools require written evidence explaining the situation and why the student is unable to submit a parent’s financial information. Written evidence may include law enforcement documents, explanatory letters from counselors, social workers or clergy members or other relevant information that sheds light onto your special circumstances.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for students requiring a dependency override

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

When a student is seeking a dependency override, they should remember that documentation is the most important part of any override. The common overrides allowed by the FAFSA are, age, marriage, children, military service, homelessness, foster care, legal guardianship, and emancipated minor. Other overrides allowed by schools are, if the student’s parents are in another country or otherwise estranged, and if the student left home to escape an abusive relationship. With these overrides the student must select on the FAFSA that they cannot provide parent information. The FAFSA will process as incomplete and the student will then need to follow up with the financial aid office of the institution to which they are applying to resolve the dependency issue.

— Michael Rogovin, Education Advisor at the American Student Assistance Center

Students who are unable to provide parent information on the FAFSA due to abuse, neglect or incarceration should contact the Financial Aid Office at the school of their choice.

— Amy Cable, Director of Financial Aid at Mid-South Community College

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: One of My Parents has Died

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Filling Out the FAFSA: One of My Parents has Died

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The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families. For students with deceased parents, universities may require death certificates or other proof, and the financial aid application process may be emotionally difficult for grieving students.

For the FAFSA, do not report your deceased parent’s income.

If your deceased parent was your custodial parent and you are not financially dependent on your non-custodial parent, you may be eligible for a dependency override.
If your parent has died after you have submitted the FAFSA, contact your school immediately and let them know.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA if you have a deceased parent

  1. Submit financial information for your remaining parent, including their income and assets.
  2. Do not submit your deceased parent’s financial information, even if they died within the past year and you have their tax returns and financial documents.
  3. If your parent died after you submitted your FAFSA, submit a correction updating your information. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They are likely to ask you to submit a death certificate.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Student with a deceased parent should contact the Financial Aid Office at the school of their choice.

— Amy Cable, Director of Financial Aid at Mid-South Community College

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: I Live With Legal Guardians or Foster Parents

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I Live With Legal Guardians or Foster Parents

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The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families to navigate. Neither legal guardians nor foster parents are considered parents by the FAFSA, so you do not have to list their income and household size information on your FAFSA.

Unless your legal guardian or foster parents have legally adopted you, the FAFSA does not consider them to be your parents on the form. If they have legally adopted you, they are considered to be your parents, and you should include their information on the form.

If your parents are deceased, you have been legally emancipated, or you were a ward of the court at any time after the age of 13, the FAFSA considers you to be an independent student. You are likely to be considered an independent student if you live with legal guardians or foster parents.
Any support received from legal guardians or foster parents should be reported on Worksheet B as income for the student.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA if you live with legal guardians or foster parents

  1. In Step 3 (Student), check “yes” for any applicable questions, which are likely to be numbers 52 (At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court) or 54 (As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in a legal guardianship?).
  2. Skip all of Step 4 (Parent).
  3. Include your personal income and assets on the FAFSA.
  4. Report any financial support received from legal guardians or foster parents on Worksheet B as personal income.
  5. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

If you can’t provide information about your parents on the FAFSA, then please skip Steps 4 and 5, and go to Step 6. You can still submit your application without your parent’s information. Call the Financial Aid Office at the school you plan to attend once you submit the application and they will be happy to help you.
— Marco Siliezar

Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy
The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

— Department of Education

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

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The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional in June 2013, giving same-sex couples equal opportunity to participate in federal government programs such as Medicaid, military spousal benefits, and filing for financial aid for college. LGBT families were previously not recognized on the FAFSA and students were instructed to fill out the form as if their parents were divorced, listing the income and contributions of only one parent. Likewise, same-sex partners filling out the form could not list their spouse on the application, as their marriage was not recognized by the federal government.

Now students with married same-sex parents will list the contributions and income of both parents.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for LGBT families

  1. Fill out the FAFSA with both your parents’ income and assets.
  2. You do not need to list both parents on the FAFSA if they do not live together or they are not both your legal parents. You are required to list a step-parent who is married to your legal parent. In Step 4 (Parent), state that your parents’ marital status is married if they are married.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers: For question #58 that asks about your parents’ marital status, FAFSA will now use gender neutral terms such as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” to distinguish between parents.

— Marco Siliezar, Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy