Financial aid eligibility can vary depending on whether you’re considered a dependent or independent student. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires dependent students to show their parent’s information on the form. Independent students are not required to include it. What if your parents are divorced or separated? What if you live with your grandmother? Whose information should be included?
The Department of Education provides these guidelines to explain who should be counted as a parent. Unless otherwise noted, “parent” means the legal (biological and/or adoptive) parent or stepparent. The rules below apply to legal parents regardless of gender.
- If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
- If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent.
- If your parents are divorced but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Unmarried and both parents living together,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parents are separated but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Married or remarried,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
- If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.
- 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.
If you’re still unsure, contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1.800.4.FED.AID, 1.800-433-3243.