FAFSA Guide

FAFSA Guide

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

Sept. 20, 2019
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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

Sept. 20, 2019
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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.

» MORE: FAFSA checklist

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.

» MORE: What are the FAFSA requirements?


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

» MORE: Learn about the best student loans for parents

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FAFSA Guide

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

Sept. 20, 2019
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Filling Out the FAFSA: I Live With Legal Guardians or Foster Parents

Sept. 20, 2019
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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.

» MORE: FAFSA checklist

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.

» MORE: How to take out student loans without your parents


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

» MORE: Here are private student loans you can get without a co-signer

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FAFSA Guide

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents Were Never Married

Sept. 20, 2019
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At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents Were Never Married

Sept. 20, 2019
Loans, Student Loans

Biological parents who were never married and don’t live together are treated similarly to parents that have been divorced. One parent, referred to as the “custodial parent”, will complete the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent you have lived with the most in the past 12 months.

If your custodial parent receives child support or alimony, you must list that as income on the FAFSA.

If your parents were never married but live together, then you must provide information for both parents.

» MORE: FAFSA checklist

Steps for Filling Out the FAFSA if your parents were never married

  1. In Step 4 (Parent), state that your parents’ marital status is “single.”
  2. Determine which of your parents is your “custodial parent.” The custodial parent is likely to be the higher earner.
  3. Fill out the FAFSA with your custodial parent’s income and assets.
  4. Do not include your “non-custodial” parent in your reported household size unless they live with you and receive more than 50% of their financial support from your custodial parent.
  5. Report financial support you receive from your “non-custodial” parent under the category of untaxed income.
  6. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They may ask you to fill out a non-custodial parent form.

» MORE: 5 FAFSA tips to save you time when applying


Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

The custodial parent for federal student aid purposes is the parent with whom you lived the most during the past 12 months. If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.

— Department of Education

>>MORE: Learn about the best student loans for parents

Go back to the FAFSA guide

FAFSA Guide

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I am Legally Emancipated

Sept. 20, 2019
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At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
Advertiser Disclosure

Filling Out the FAFSA: I am Legally Emancipated

Sept. 20, 2019
Loans, Student Loans

The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families to navigate. Students who are/were emancipated minors, as determined by a court, do not have to include their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA.

Any support received from friends or relatives should be reported on Worksheet B as income for the student.

» MORE: FAFSA checklist

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for emancipated minors

  1. Include your personal income and assets on the FAFSA.
  2. In Step 3 (Student), check “yes” for question 53 (As determined by a court in your legal state of residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?).
  3. Skip all of Step 4 (Parent).
  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.

» MORE: How to take out student loans without your parents


Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Students who are deemed to be an emancipated minor (youth who has obtained a court order legally releasing you from control of your parent or guardian) have more access to financial aid. Emancipated minors are considered independent students for financial aid purposes, and students will potentially have to provide documentation of their status to the financial aid office at their school of choice.

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

» MORE: Here are private student loans you can get without a co-signer

Go back to the FAFSA guide