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When is a Stepparent or Adoptive Parent's Income Reported on the FAFSA?

Mark Kantrowitz

February 07, 2011

My son’s father is not part of his life nor does he pay child support. We’re not even sure where he is. Do I need his financial information for the FAFSA if I am my son’s sole support? — Denise M.

If you are divorced or separated, your ex-husband’s financial information is not reported on the FAFSA. Separation can include an informal separation, not just a legal separation. If the parents have an informal separation, however, they cannot live together.

I’m currently a full time student and single mom. Financial aid covers my tuition completely. My boyfriend and I are waiting until after graduation to get married. But we have been discussing having him adopt my daughter as a co-parent (he is not her biological father) until then. How would this affect my financial aid? Will I lose a lot of it because of this? — Tara R.

Legal adoption of your daughter by your boyfriend will not affect your eligibility for federal student aid, so long as the adoption is terminating the rights of the biological father, not your rights.

The support you receive from your boyfriend for your daughter counts as part of your support of the daughter when considering whether you are independent of your parents. This is the case regardless of whether he adopts her or not.

If you were to get married before you graduate, however, his income and assets would be reported on your FAFSA. That could significantly affect your eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Adoption does potentially affect your daughter’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. A student who has two parents who have not yet married is treated the same as a student whose parents are divorced. Only the custodial parent is responsible for completing the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived the most during the twelve months ending on the FAFSA application date. If the student lived with both parents equally, then the custodial parent is the parent who provided more support to the student. That might be your boyfriend. If your boyfriend does not adopt your daugther (and you don’t get married), then only your financial information will be reported on your daughter’s FAFSA, not his. However, any support he provides to your daughter would be reported as untaxed income on her FAFSA. Of course, this is not a significant issue if your daughter is still a toddler.

It might be best, though, for you to wait until you are married for your boyfriend to adopt your daughter. Adoption is in many ways a more permanent relationship than marriage.


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