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Home Ask Ask the Edvisor How should I file the FAFSA if I don't live with my parents?

How should I file the FAFSA if I don't live with my parents?

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How should I complete the FAFSA if I do not live with my parents, but with a family friend or other relatives?


Dependent students must have their legal parents complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), regardless of where they live.

Legal parents include the student’s biological or adoptive parents. Parents who are listed on the student’s birth certificate can also count as a legal parent.

If the student’s legal parents live together, both must complete the FAFSA, even if the student does not live with them.

If the student’s legal parents do not live together and are divorced/separated or never married, only one parent must complete the FAFSA. This parent is the parent with whom the student lived the most during the 12 months ending on the date the FAFSA is filed. If the student lived with neither parent more, then it is based on the parent who provided more financial support to the student. (It does not matter which parent claimed the student as an exemption on the parent’s federal income tax return.) If this parent has remarried, the income and assets of the stepparent must also be reported on the FAFSA. The stepparent’s other children should be counted in household size (and in the number in college, if they are enrolled in college on at least a half-time basis) if the stepparent provides more than half their support.

Do not substitute the student’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or other relatives for the student’s legal parents, even if the student lives with them, unless they have legally adopted the student. They are not considered legal parents and their income and assets are not reported on the student’s FAFSA. However, any cash support they provide to the student must be reported as untaxed income to the student on the student’s FAFSA.

If the student is living with a relative or family friend because the student’s parents are incarcerated or institutionalized, there are court protection-from-abuse orders against the parents or the parents’ whereabouts are unknown, ask the financial aid administrators at the colleges the student is considering (or the student’s current college, as appropriate) for a dependency override.

If the student was in foster care or in a court-ordered legal guardianship at any time since reaching age 13, the student is an independent student. Parent information is not required on the FAFSA of an independent student.

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