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Who Completes the FAFSA When a Student Lives with his Grandparents?

Mark Kantrowitz

January 14, 2013

Dependency Overrides

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes a college financial aid administrator will grant the student a dependency override. For example, the college financial aid administrator might grant a dependency override to a student who is living with his grandparents if both of his parents are incarcerated or institutionalized or if there are court protection from abuse orders against both parents.

The financial aid administrator may also grant a dependency override in cases involving abandonment, where the student has not had any financial support or significant contact with both parents for an extended period of time. Abandonment is often used as grounds for a dependency override when the custodial parent dies and the student continues to live with the stepparent, and the student hasn’t had any contact with or support from the non-custodial parent for more than a year.

College financial aid administrators cannot grant a dependency override just because the parents refuse to complete financial aid forms or verification, the parents refuse to support the student, the student demonstrates total self-sufficiency and/or the parents don’t claim the student as an exemption on their income tax returns.

Before granting a dependency override, the college financial aid administrator will want to have documentation of the unusual circumstances, including as letters from independent third parties who are familiar with the student’s situation, such as letters from guidance counselors, doctors, clergy, social workers, government agencies and/or the court.

Reporting Cash Support to the Student

Cash support that the student receives from anybody other than the student’s parents (as listed on the FAFSA) must be reported on the FAFSA as untaxed income to the student. Cash support includes not just money given to the student and loans, but also money paid to someone else on behalf of the student. Cash support can include food, clothing, housing, car payments, medical and dental care, insurance and college costs. For example, if a student is living with his grandparents, the support they provide to the student must be reported as untaxed income to the student on the student’s FAFSA. Likewise, if the stepparent is no longer married to the student’s custodial parent but continues to support the student, the support must be reported as untaxed income to the student.


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