Change in Marital Status
When the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is
filled out, students and parents list their current
marital status. This has several ramifications in how it can
affect the need analysis formula, even though it sounds like a
simple enough question. Financial aid officers often find
themselves talking to families about marital status questions
and whose incomes should be reported on the application, as well
as which people should be counted as part of the household
during the school year. Some of the types of common situations
that occur can be discussed here.
If parents are separated or divorced at the time the FAFSA is
filed, list the income and household size for just the one
parent the student lived with the most during the last 12
months. If the student lived with neither parent, list
information for the one parent who provided the most financial
support during the last 12 months. If child support was paid by
the other parent, there is a special place to report that amount
on the FAFSA.
If a parent has remarried, the stepparent is a part of the
household size and also must include his/her income on the
student's financial aid application.
If parents become separated or divorced after the FAFSA was
filed, the family may request a review of their special
circumstances by completing a
Special Condition Form,
which is a way of reporting a drastic change in the family's
situation causing a major reduction in income.
If the student is planning to get married, careful
consideration should be given in deciding whether to file the
financial aid application before or after the wedding date. A
student cannot put a future date on the application because they
plan to be married by that date. Students also cannot re-file an
application to update their status to married (even though they
can do a Special Condition Form to report a separation or
divorce that occurred after the original date of filing). It is
probably well worth the student's time to make an appointment
with a financial aid counselor to discuss their marriage plans
and the affect on student aid in detail. Financial aid
counselors can often do need analysis estimates to show the
difference in aid eligibility by filing before or after the
marriage date. Here are some of the reasons it makes a big
- Once a
student is married, he/she is "independent" on the aid
students must report spouse's income, even if they were single
and filed tax returns separately the prior year.
Sometimes the wedding date occurs late enough in the year, that
by waiting to file as married the student has missed the
preferred filing deadline for some of the Federal student aid
programs and funds are already exhausted. Two programs, Pell
Grant and Stafford Loan, are available all year, though.
- In some
cases, the student should not wait to file as married and risk
filing a late aid application, because they could file as
dependent with the parents' income information and still be
eligible for the aid programs they have always received.
Attaining independent status does not always mean qualifying for
more dollars in student assistance.
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