All students who are considered dependent must have their parent or legal guardian provide information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, some students might have trouble figuring out who should fill out the FAFSA. For example, if parents are divorced or living apart, it may be confusing for the student to determine what parent’s information should be included. Here are some helpful hints to figure out what parent should fill out the FAFSA.
Before going over the circumstances, students must understand who is considered a parent. Parent or parents are defined by the FAFSA as the student’s legal (biological or adoptive) parents or stepparents, or a person who has been determined as the legal parent. Widowed stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older siblings, and other family members are not considered parents for FAFSA purposes unless they have legally adopted the student.
- Parents are married. If the student’s parents are married and living together, financial information for both parents should be included on the FAFSA.
- Parents are unmarried, but living together. Just like married parents, if parents are living together, financial information for both parents should be included on the FAFSA.
- Parents are married and living apart. If parents are living apart and not considered legally separated by the state, information for both parents should be included on the FAFSA.
- Parents are unmarried, separated or divorced and living apart. The parent the student lived with the most should be the one who fills out the FAFSA. If that parent is remarried, the financial information for the new spouse should also be included on the FAFSA.
- Student lives equally with unmarried, separated or divorced parents. If the student lived with each parent equally during the year, the parent who provided the most financial support should fill out the FAFSA. Again, if that parent is remarried, the financial information for the new spouse should also be included on the FAFSA.
- Student does not live with legal parents. If the student lives with someone other than their legal parent, they must still provide information for their legal parents.
- Student cannot get financial information for parent. There are some circumstances in which students might not be able to get financial information for their parents. These special circumstances could be that parents are incarcerated, the student left the home due to an abusive family environment, or the student does not know where their parents are and are unable to contact them. If students have any of these circumstances, students can fill out the FAFSA and specify they cannot get parental financial information due to special circumstances. Students will be able to submit the FAFSA without their parent’s information, but must contact the financial aid offices at the colleges they are considering to discuss the special circumstances. The financial aid office will ask for more information and then will make the final decision about the student’s dependency status.
- Parents will not provide information on the FAFSA. If the student is considered dependent per the FAFSA’s definition, but parents will not provide financial information, there are some options for the student. Student will need to specify that they cannot get financial information for their parent and that they do not have special circumstances (as described above). Unfortunately, the student will not be able to get federal financial aid other than an unsubsidized loan. Student will then need to contact the financial aid offices at the colleges they are considering to discuss the student’s circumstances. If students use this option, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will not be calculated. Keep in mind that many state aid programs, as well as institution specific aid requires an EFC. Therefore, students will probably be ineligible for these aid programs.
If students still have questions about who’s information should be included on the FAFSA, they should visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information.