Information on Parent Demographics


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Students after completing Section 3 are redirected to Section 4- Parent Demographics

As mentioned in the previous section, Section 4 is meant for the dependent students, and it consists of questions related to custodial parents, and a student needs the help of his/her parents to find answers to the questions.

Who qualifies as a parent?

Before a student starts seeking help from the parents, it is important to understand the criteria of qualifying as a parent.

The definition of a parent is broad, and one does not have to give birth to the child to be considered as a parent, even adoptive parents can be considered on the FAFSA.

For example, if a student is adopted by his/her grandparents, then he/she can ask them, to fill the FAFSA. However, if the grandparents are only recognized as the legal guardian, they cannot be of any help for the student.

Note- In case a student seeks support from his/her grandparents, but is not adopted by the grandparents, then the support must be reported as untaxed income to the student on the FAFSA, irrespective of the dependency status of the student.

The legal parents of a student can take an initiative and include the name of the parent mentioned in the birth certificate of the student regardless of the biological connection with the student.

Related:What if I have not yet filed my tax returns? Will I be able to still file the FAFSA?

When to check the “Married or Remarried” option?

  • A student should select out “Married or Remarried” if his/her parents (Both adoptive and or biological) are dwelling together and are married, irrespective of their gender.
  • Most students will have doubts regarding the separation of their parents. Separation can be of two types legal and informal. If the parents were informally separated but are now living together, then a student must select “Married or Remarried.

Students often confuse themselves and ask-

What if my parents live separately in separate households?

As long as the parents of a student are not separated legally and live as married couples, physical distance either for professional or other reasons won’t make much of a difference, and they will be considered married for the FAFSA.

As per the new rule, parents who are legally separated but still live together will be treated as married, and can be considered for FAFSA purposes.

Let us analyze another situation- What if the parents are legally separated or divorced?

In the event of legal separation or divorce, one parent has to accept the duty of filling the FAFSA. The parent is often referred as custodial parent. It is not necessary for the custodial parent to have the custody of the student.

Related:Will the FAFSA use my foreign income tax return information?


fafsa dependency
A parent is believed to be the custodial parent-

  • If a student has lived the most with him/her, during the 12 months preceding the FAFSA submission.
  • If the student has received the maximum financial support from his/her parent, preceding the FAFSA submission date.

FAFSA Terms and Conditions for Stepparents

A student must give each and every detail about his/her stepparent and the custodial parent, if his/her custodial parent is married as of the date the FAFSA is submitted. The stepparent of a student is treated like his/her biological parent, and a student needs to provide the details about the stepparent’s income as of the year 2015, even if the marriage took place in 2016.

Students might ask- What if my stepparent refuses to report his/her income.

Even if the stepparent does not help the student pay for the college, it is absolutely mandatory to report his/her income and assets. The parent must understand that reporting the income and assets does not make them liable to burrow pay for the student’s education.

The parents are not held responsible for the federal Student loans received by a student


A.What if my custodial parent dies?

If your custodial parent dies, then the stepparent won’t be responsible to complete the FAFSA until and unless the student is legally adopted by the stepparent.

Now that you are already aware- Who can be considered as a parent, it is important to avoid confusion and understand

B. Who is not considered as a parent?

The legal guardians, grandparents, relative (uncle, aunts) will not be considered by the FAFSA, until and unless you are legally adopted by them.

C. Marital Status of Parents

A student must mention the current marital status of their parents, who will be assisting the student in filling the FAFSA.

He/she should select one out of the following options-

  • Married or remarried
  • Never Married
  • Widowed
  • Unmarried and both parents live together
  • Divorced or separated

The FAFSA section will also ask about the number of students in the parent’s household

Additional information required by FAFSA as per the screenshot “Parent’s Demographic Information”

The parents whose financial information is reported on the FAFSA are required to provide the following information-

  • Last name and First initial
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number

Email Address- Parents must make sure that their name matches with the legal name associated with the Social Security Number, along with the date of birth. The parents must avoid common errors like- mentioning their nicknames, not updating the records of Social Security Administration after their marriage.

The section will also ask for the email address of the parents-The email address is used by the FAFSA for notification purposes. The parents will also be reminded about the financial information, and income tax related issues through their email address.

Note- The email address should perfectly fit within the box, so it is important that it should be less than 41 characters including @.

Registering a separate email address that is only meant for receiving notification and reminders from the FAFSA will make it more convenient.

Related:Who can be considered as a Dislocated Worker?

Parent Household Size

The section will also ask the parents about their household size. But why is it important for the FAFSA?

The household size is often used to calculate the income protection allowance, that is the standard allowance required for basic living. The calculated allowance plus other allowances (like federal taxes, state taxes etc.) are subtracted from the total income to calculate the available income.

Note- Increase in household size is inversely proportional to the available income, and it increases the eligibility for the need-based aid.

However, it is important to understand- who are the members that should be included in the parent household size-

  • The student who applies for FAFSA must be counted
  • The parents must be counted except those who are divorced, separated or dead.
  • In the case of divorce, the custodial parent should be counted. If, the custodial parent is remarried, then the stepparent must be included along with the dependents of the stepparent.
  • For an independent student, the incarcerated parent (a parent who is prisoned) must be counted as it will increase the eligibility for a higher unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan
  • The other children of parents can also be counted as the family member, and they don’t have to apply for financial aid. Unborn children can also be included- if they will get through the end of the academic year more than half of the support from their parents.

Note- it is already mentioned; you cannot include siblings who are enrolled in the military academies as their education is supported by the federal government

  • The children of the student must be counted if either the student or the student’s parents sustain more than half of their support. Starting from July 1 2016 to June 30 2017, the same applies to unborn children as well. The children are not required to live with the student.
  • Other people like uncle, aunt, grandparents, non-custodial parents must be included as long as they receive more than half of their support from the student’s parent and the support will continue till June 30 2017

Number of Eligible College Going Students in the Household

Through this question the FAFSA wants to learn about the number of members of the family other than the parents, who will be enrolled in a certificate or a degree program at a recognized postsecondary institution for an academic term in 2016-2017.

The number plays an important role in determining the financial aid, because more number of students in a family will end up dividing the expected family contribution, even a half time degree will improve the eligibility for financial aid.

Related:Which untaxed incomes do I need to report on the FAFSA?

But why are the parents excluded?

The rules have been changed since 1982, because prior to that, the parents misused the scheme and despite of being highly qualified, they deliberately enrolled themselves into the low cost community colleges in an attempt to reduce the expected family contribution.

Are there any exceptions?

However, there are certain exceptions when even the student cannot be counted as a member in the household

If a student is enrolled in a U.S military academy, then he or she won’t be considered as the member of the family, because the education cost and the college cost will be entirely taken care by the federal government.

Similarly, if the institution is not recognized by the state, the student will not be eligible for Title IV federal student aid, and cannot be counted as a household number in the FAFSA.

The section will also ask questions regarding the Parent’s State of Residence. If the parents of the applicant live outside of the United States, then they are required to enter “FC” (foreign country) in the space provided

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