FAFSA Tip: Eligibility for Independent Student Status | 10.08.10

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan, Student Loans, Twitter By Student Loan Network Staff

I have received some inquiries about my previous blog: Four Bizarre things you did not know about the FAFSA.

What qualifies you as an Independent Student?

If one or any of the following apply to you, then you will be considered an Independent Student:

  1. You are enrolled in a Masters program, Doctorate Degree, or graduate Certification program
    • age does not matter, if you are enrolled in any of these types of programs you are considered and independent student
  2. You have a child or children that are your legal dependent(s)
    • you may have a family member etc. that is considered your dependent…he/she does not necessarily have to be a child
  3. You are married
  4. You are under the age of 24 and both of your parents are deceased
  5. You were a ward of your state until you were 18 years of age
  6. You are 24 years of age or older
  7. You are a Veteran of the United States Armed Force
  8. You were a foster child after the age of 13.
  9. You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.
  10. You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.

Want more details, visit: FAFSA Online : Independent Students

The most important aspect of this is to remember that your school has the right to reassess certain circumstances, a process called professional judgment.

Some students have no contact with their parents, and therefore cannot use their tax information for filing the FAFSA. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to go to your school’s financial aid office and ask them for help. Chances are, you’ll also need to bring plentiful documentation (rent, utilities, etc.) to prove that your situation is as you say it is. You’ll be asking for a professional judgment override on dependency status.

What this means is, if you’re under 24, in order to file as an independent, you must first go to your local courthouse and ask to appear before a judge to be ‘legally emancipated’ and apply as an independent student.

Update: We just wrote a pretty helpful blog about how people in situations like yours can get a FAFSA dependency change. For information on this, read Appealing Your FAFSA Dependency Status

More: When are the FAFSA Deadlines


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588 Responses to “FAFSA Tip: Eligibility for Independent Student Status”

  1. russ says on September 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm:

    My mom is moving back to rhode island and has givin me 30 days to leave. At that point i will be on my own . Do i qualify as an independent then??

    Reply To This Comment
  2. Ashley Bailey says on July 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm:

    I have a child which is my legal dependent. I did not file taxes last year so I can’t provide a income tax to prove my dependent legality. What type of document or procedure must I execute to prove that my child is my legal dependent.

    Reply To This Comment
  3. Tom says on June 27, 2013 at 8:13 am:

    There is an inaccuracy in your article. You stated above:

    “what this means is, if you’re under 24, in order to file as an independent, you must first go to your local courthouse and ask to appear before a judge to be ‘legally emancipated’ and apply as an independent student.”

    The FAFSA clearly states within its dependency questions that you were emancipated as a minor. In most states, a minor in anyone under the age of 18 with a few exceptions. Being emancipated over the minor age does a student no good. I know the independent appeals regulations have changed since the publication of this post but the above statement is inaccurate at any point in time.

    Reply To This Comment
  4. Bri says on June 18, 2013 at 10:49 am:

    if i live with my boyfriend will i be able to still get fasfa without my mother’s info?

    Reply To This Comment
  5. indie says on May 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm:

    I was born before Jan 1, 1990. I’m currently enrolled this 2013 spring semester and I’m planning to file for a 2012-2013 fafsa. My question is, I did not work for the year 2011 so I did not file a tax return because I had no income at all(and according to the IRS website I didn’t have too being under the required income to file). Will I still qualify for fafsa because I did not file a tax return?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on May 3, 2013 at 9:51 am:

      Yes. Filing taxes is not a requirement for the FAFSA. As long as you were not required to file as determined by IRS guidelines, you’ll simply need to select “will not file” on that portion of the FAFSA.

      Reply To This Comment
  6. Brittany says on April 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm:

    I am 22 years old. In 2011 I lived in VA with my parents and my daughter. My mom paid for all of my stuff. In 2012 I moved to TX with my boyfriend. I have been living with him a little over a year. We share expenses and I know that in TX we are considered Common Law married. Does that qualify me as Independent or do I still have to use my parents taxes for 2011?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on April 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm:

      That should qualify you as an independent, as long as you meet the Texas state requirements as in common law, as shown here: http://www.finaid.org/educators/commonlaw.phtml

      You could also qualify as independent if you provide more than half of your daughter’s support. For an official status determination, it’s best to check with your school’s financial aid office.

      Reply To This Comment
  7. Justin says on April 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm:

    I will be 24 the end of next month. Can I fill out my FAFSA for the coming Fall semester 2013 and be an independant?

    Reply To This Comment
  8. Jessamine says on April 5, 2013 at 11:46 am:

    I stay with my parents and i have a 1 year old daughter. I provide for her financial and i pay for daycare. But my step mother claim my child on her taxes with my permission. So my school said i would need her information to go to school. But she don’t want her information on the FASA. So if i move out and stay with my auntie will i be able to be a independent student again for the fall or spring term.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on April 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm:

      Hi Jessamine,

      Probably not. Living with someone else does not exclude the need of a parent’s information on FAFSA necessarily. I would suggest talking with your financial aid office to see what can be done.

      Reply To This Comment
  9. Dap says on March 12, 2013 at 9:05 am:

    I am trying to fill out FASFA for my daughter. I am currently single but do have a live in boyfriend. Do I have to add him? If so, how do I add him without checking the married option? It won’t let me change the lives in household field unless I check married.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on March 12, 2013 at 9:58 am:

      You should not report your boyfriend on the FAFSA since you are not married, Unless you provide more than 50% of his support for the year, then include him in household size.

      Any support he provides to your daughter should be reported as untaxed income for her.

      If you are still having trouble with the fields, it may be due to conflicting information and you should contact the school’s financial aid office for assistance.

      Reply To This Comment
  10. Kim says on February 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm:

    My mother took out a collegiate loan for my son. She can not afford to take out another loan and I can’t afford to pay for his schooling. What are his options?

    Reply To This Comment
  11. Nina says on January 10, 2013 at 8:38 am:

    My daughter is a 22 yr old mother of 2 who live in subsidized housing does not get a government check, grandmother of children buys clothing for children, meds,and provide most of childrens care, can she claim children on taxes without it interfering with daughters independent student status. She is not claiming daughter only her children.

    Reply To This Comment
  12. Shim says on October 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm:

    I am 22 years of age I am stuck living at home with my parents, my parents refuse for any of my schooling when they can afford it. I pay for all my things and work to maintain paying for my bills, Would i be rejected a court order because I live in my house?

    Reply To This Comment
  13. wanda says on September 26, 2012 at 5:31 am:

    my son who is 23 has a 3 year old daughter
    and has started paying child support this
    year $300.00 a month. he work part time
    last year and made $1300.00 last year…his school said that since he didn’t make $3000
    last year he can’t file as independent and has to use my tax returns, is this true? He received a court order this year to pay child support and his job takes out the from his check? I can’t find it anywhere in fafsa that the minimun is $3000.00, if so please tell me where to find the information.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 27, 2012 at 7:33 am:

      in order to claim independence for FAFSA, he would need to provide over 50% of the child’s support. This includes health insurance, housing, and other expenses necessary for the child. There is no set dollar amount like the $3,000 you mention, but it could be your son’s school calculated that in order to provide 50% support, this is the amount he would need to contribute?

      Reply To This Comment
  14. Michelle says on August 27, 2012 at 9:10 am:

    My nephew is a freshman who was in the sole custody of his father since 2002. His father passed away during his senior year in high school. He remained in the house and was awarded temporary emergency custody of his younger brother. The mom never had visitation and never paid child support to his dad. She lost custody 10 years ago. Now, the school claims that he can’t file as an independent student because he still has a parent. Court documents and school records also show proof of his circumstances. How much more independent can a child be? What should he do at this point?

    Reply To This Comment
  15. Sarah says on June 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm:

    I graduate next fall and am considering applying to graduate school but since I will be 24 I won’t be putting my parents financial info on the FAFSA anymore. How will I fill out the FAFSA for grad school if I am right out of undergrad and have no income, therefore, no tax return, etc?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on June 25, 2012 at 9:39 am:

      You simply file as a student with no income. You can put zeroes where applicable and claim “will not file” if you do not intend/don’t need to file your taxes.

      Reply To This Comment
  16. Nate says on April 20, 2012 at 12:08 am:

    I’m 19. My family & I’s house burnt down in February. We lost literally everything we had (no insurance). My Mom and stepdad moved down South to have a new beginning, I was forced to move in with Grandparents. In July I will have to move into apartment close to college. I have little to no contact with my father. I pay for all of my own expenses making $12,000 a year. Do you think I can be considered an Independent student?

    Reply To This Comment
    • tyluv3 says on September 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm:

      Yes.There is a possibility that you can still be considered independent. explain this situation to your financial aid advisor. Get letter from your grandparents, yourself, and some sort of city official (police officer, landloard, transition house program) and get your tax records together. Being considered independent is very difficult to prove and be ready; its going to be a bumpy road

      Reply To This Comment
  17. Noelle says on February 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm:

    My mother isn’t involved with my life, and my dad kicked me out when I was in 7th grade. He sent me to live with my grandfather, and the situation is almost worse here. I’m a junior in high school, and i’m starting to look for colleges. I’m moving out of my house when I’m 18 to move in with a friend, can I call myself an independent on applications for scholarships and financial aid?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on February 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm:

      No, you’d have to appeal your aid status to a financial aid officer. For more information, you should check with your school’s financial aid office.

      Reply To This Comment
  18. James says on January 20, 2012 at 2:13 am:

    Ill turn 24 in late October this year will i be considered a depended in the fall semester?

    Reply To This Comment
  19. Cadence Royster says on January 6, 2012 at 9:23 am:

    Thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

    Reply To This Comment
  20. Regina says on November 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm:

    I am 23 years old, and I will be 24 in May of 2012. I am currently in my fourth year of college and reaching my maximum federal loan amount as an dependent student. I just found out that I will have to attend one more year of college. Can the fact I will be considered a dependent student extend my loan amount for the 2012-2013?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on December 1, 2011 at 9:33 am:

      I’m assuming you meant you will be independent, and if so, yes. Independent students are able to take out more Stafford loans, and depending on how much you make currently, you may qualify for more aid in general when filing as independent.

      Reply To This Comment

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