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Does Parental Support Affect Independent Student Status?

Mark Kantrowitz

February 04, 2013

I am 19 and have a baby (1 month old) and I am living with my boyfriend and his mother. I am confused about whose tax information to use on the FAFSA. My boyfriend’s mother is in Section 8 housing and put me in it and in her food stamps. — J.F.

A student who has one or more dependent children that she supports is considered independent on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Parental information is not required on the FAFSA of an independent student.

The children must receive more than half of their support from the student throughout the award year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The children do not need to live with the student.

Support that the student receives from sources other than her parents will count as part of the support she provides to her children. This includes support she receives from her boyfriend and from her boyfriend’s parents. It also includes money from government aid programs, such as TANF and SNAP (food stamps). Student financial aid (including student loans) also counts as part of the student’s own support. Amounts the student spends from savings and income to support her children also count as part of her support of the children.

If the student’s parents, however, directly or indirectly provide more than half of the support for the student’s children, the student is not considered to be independent. The student’s parents would then be required to complete the FAFSA. The boyfriend’s parents cannot substitute for the student’s parents on the FAFSA.

Regardless of whether the student is dependent or independent, any support she receives from her boyfriend or his mother should be reported as untaxed income to the student on her FAFSA.

Incidentally, if the boyfriend is the children’s father (or the children live with him) and he provides more than half of the children’s support, he can also be considered independent on his own FAFSA. So it is possible for both of a child’s unmarried parents to each be considered independent on the FAFSA because they are each providing more than half of the child’s support.


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