Divorced parents

If your parents are separated or divorced at the time you submit the FAFSA, you need to report the income and assets of the parent with whom you lived with the majority of the time over the previous 12 months and who provided the most financial support.

If your parents file a joint tax return, you will report only the portion of income and other resources of the parent who provided the most support. If a joint tax form is filed, the adjusted gross income and income tax paid will need to be recalculated. You or your parent/stepparent may contact our office for further clarification.



The Department of Education has determined that parents and students have the primary responsibility for meeting a student's post-secondary educational costs. The distribution of financial aid resources is based on the family’s ability to pay the college costs. When a parent with whom the child is living remarries, the stepparent becomes a family member. Consequently, the stepparent’s resources will be considered when determining the family’s ability to cover the college expenses.


Dependency status determination

When a student applies for financial aid, the answers to specific questions on the FAFSA determine whether the student must report the parent’s income and assets as well as the student’s — or whether the student is independent and must report only his/her own income and assets (and those of the spouse, if married).

The reason for the classification by dependency status is based on the federal, state and institutional philosophy that the student and/or his/her family have the primary responsibility to pay for education beyond high school. If the student is unmarried and under age 24, the parents are responsible for completing the FAFSA, even if the student does not live with the parent(s).

Parent’s income information is required in these circumstances.

Financial aid funds supplement, not replace, what the parent(s) and/or student is/are expected to pay for college expenses.


Q: I’ve answered no to all of the independency questions, but I think I should be considered independent.

A: If you can't answer yes to any of the independency questions but have extenuating circumstances, you may submit a Request for Independent Status Appeal by clicking on the appropriate year Financial Aid Forms page for this document. If you don't meet the criteria for this appeal, you'll be required to provide parental information on the FAFSA.

Q: I live on my own and my parents do not support me at all. Am I an “Independent” student for financial aid?

A: Not living with your parents and parents not supporting you does not classify you as an independent student. Per federal regulations, the FAFSA has criteria that determine if you are dependent or independent for financial aid purposes. These regulations are not the same as tax law or healthcare law.

The determination on the FAFSA of your dependency status may not concur with what you think it should be. To be considered independent for financial aid purposes you must be able to answer yes to at least one of 13 questions in Step 3 on the FAFSA.

Use the Dependency Status Determination to assist you in determining if you are dependent or independent. If your answers to all of the questions are no, then you are dependent and must report your parents' information. If you are independent, our office may be required to collect supporting documentation from you proving your status.

Q: If I get married after I completed the FAFSA, should I complete a new one with my spouse’s information?

A: No. You complete the FAFSA with your marital status as of that day you are completing your FAFSA. You may not re-submit a FAFSA based on marital change. Federal Regulations prohibit Sandburg from changing or accepting a marital status change on a current-year FAFSA.