Special Situations FAQ
You will find common answers to questions about the FAFSA and unique situations.
Per federal regulation, students are considered “dependent” until the age of 24 unless they can answer “yes” to (and can document) one of the following criteria:
- Have you earned your undergraduate degree and will you be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree ?
- Are you married or separated but not divorced?
- Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
- Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their financial support from you?
- At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?
- Are you an emancipated minor or in a legal guardianship as determined by a court?
- Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
Many students feel they are independent for various reasons. How you answer the questions in the dependency section of the FAFSA determines your dependency status according to federal regulations. If you indicate you fit one of the criteria in that section, it is likely that the Financial Aid office will request documentation confirming the situation, in order to comply with the Federal regulation.
Federal regulation states that a dependent student must file the FAFSA with the parent they reside with. If they do not reside with either parent (and can provide proof of a separate address), they must file the FAFSA with the parent that provides the majority of their financial support.
If the divorce or separation occurred prior to the completion of the FAFSA, but student/parents filed their taxes jointly, students must provide proof of a separate address for each party, a copy of the tax return, and all corresponding W2-s. This allows the Office of Financial Aid to remove from the FAFSA the income of the parent that is no longer in the household.
If divorce or separation occurs after the completion of the FAFSA, but student/parents filed their taxes jointly, students must complete the Special Circumstance Request process.
If your FAFSA is selected for the process of Verification, and you have made an amendment to your Federal Tax Return, the Office of Financial Aid will request the following documents to complete the Verification process:
- Copy of IRS Form 4868 “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return”
- Copy of IRS approval of the extension beyond the automatic six-month extension if the individual requested an additional extension of the filing time
- All corresponding W2-s (or other statements of income) for that tax year
If students or parents of dependent students filed an amendment to their tax return, and are selected for the Verification Process, the Office of Financial Aid will request the following documents:
- A Tax Return Transcript (this will only contain the original tax information)
- Signed copy of the 1040X, “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,” and proof that it has been submitted to the IRS
If a student or a parent of a dependent student was a victim of IRS tax-related identity theft and they were selected for the Verification process, the Office of Financial Aid will request the following documents:
- A Tax Return DataBase View (TRDBV) transcript which can be obtained from the IRS
- A statement signed and dated by the tax filer indicating that he or she was a victim of IRS tax-related identity theft and that the IRS is aware of the incident
A student or a parent of a dependent student selected for the Verification process must submit the following documentation:
- A transcript that was obtained at no cost from the relevant taxing authority of a U.S. Territory (Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands) or commonwealth (Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands), or a foreign central government, that includes all of the tax filer’s income and tax information required to be verified for the tax year
- If a transcript can not be obtained, the tax payer must submit a signed copy of the income tax return form
Students or parents of dependent students that earned wages, but did not file a tax return must submit the following:
- Copy of all wage statements (W2, 1099, etc.)
- Income Clarification Form (if requested)
An independent student and spouse, or a parent of a dependent student that has lost a job may submit a Special Circumstance Request under these criteria:
- Loss of employment must occur 16 weeks prior to time of request
- Loss of employment must be involuntary (but not fired for cause)
- Must provide documentation as shown on the appropriate Special Circumstance Request form.