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Which parent is responsible for completing the financial aid application?

Mark Kantrowitz

January 04, 2010

I am currently in a sticky situation. My parents have been divorced for 10 years. My dad is disabled and unemployed. My mom is remarried. I live with my mom and my step-dad the entire year. My step-dad, who claims me on his taxes, makes a lot of money (more than $150,000). Unfortunately he will not be contributing at all to my college fund. My real dad will be contributing a little (about $500). When I fill out the FAFSA, do I need to include my step-dad or my real dad? Both will contribute very little. If I need to include my step-dad, my EFC will be considerably less because of the large amount of money he makes, even though he will contribute nothing. What should I do? I look like a little rich kid when in actuality, I only have help from my mom, who already has to deal with my three siblings. — Chris G.

Since you live with your mother the entire year, your mother is responsible for completing the FAFSA. Since she has remarried, your step-father’s financial information must be reported on the FAFSA, per section 475(f)(3) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. (Your biological father’s information is not reported.) Your step-father’s refusal to contribute to your education is irrelevant. Likewise, a prenuptial agreement has no impact on this requirement. Your step-father’s information would still be required on the FAFSA even if he didn’t claim you as an exemption on his income tax return.

This means you will qualify for very little need-based financial aid, as your financial need will be based on your step-father’s income.

I have never lived with my biological father and he does nothing for me, especially not child support. My mother does not work and she is now separated from my stepfather who is retired. How would my mother and I deal with the FAFSA and scholarships pertaining to these things? We are really confused and can’t afford college without maximum help. — Shanna B.

Since you live with your mother, she is responsible for completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your biological father’s information is not reported on the FAFSA. Your stepfather’s information is only required while he is married to your mother. Since he is separated from your mother, his information is not reported on the FAFSA. (The separation does not need to be a legal separation. An informal separation is sufficient, so long as your mother and stepfather do not live together.)

Some colleges may require information from your biological father and/or your stepfather. This is for awarding their own financial aid funds. It does not affect eligibility for federal and state student financial aid.

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