Who Should Complete the FAFSA?


FAFSA season is fast approaching, which always brings questions about who should complete this federal financial aid application.

For the 2014-2015 school, year, the Department of Education has issued new rules impacting some parents about who should be completing the FAFSA. Here is a rundown of what you need to know:

Traditional Married Couples

If you are part of a traditional family — married husband and wife and kids – it’s easy to answer who completes the financial aid forms. Both family xparents will share their financial information on the FAFSA.

Unmarried Parents Living Together

Unmarried parents who live together have traditionally enjoyed a FAFSA perk. Only one of the parents has had to complete the FAFSA and share his/her financial figures, but this will change beginning Jan. 1. Both parents, who live together, will be required to complete the financial aid application jointly.

Divorced and Separated Parents

If you are divorced, the ex-spouse who has taken care of the child the majority of the year will continue to complete the FAFSA. You are considered the custodial parent, with the responsibility of completing the FAFSA, based on where the child has physically lived during a 12-month period ending on the day the FAFSA is completed.

Separated parents don’t have to be “legally” separated to be treated the same as divorced couples, but they can’t be living in the same residence.

Here is a YouTube video that I recorded with Paula Bishop, a financial aid expert, the discusses divorce and financial aid:

Divorce and Financial Aid

Single-Sex Couples

The new federal rule requires that married, single-sex couples must both include their financial information on the FAFSA. To reflect this change, the FAFSA will now ask for information for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” In the past, only the biological parent had to share his or her assets and income.

What if the single-sex couple is not married? Both partners will have to submit financial data if one of them has adopted the other partner’s child. If a partner has not adopted the child, only the biological parent will complete the FAFSA.

Here is a story I wrote for my CBS MoneyWatch blog earlier this year on this rule change:

Feds Push Diversity in Financial Aid


If the student is living with a guardian, such as a grandparent or an older sibling, the student is considered an independent student. The federal government does not consider a guardian (or foster parent) a parent. As such, the student will only include his or her information on the FAFSA.

Any support a legal guardian or foster parent gave to the student should be reported on Worksheet B as the student’s income.

A Parent Has Died

If a parent dies during the year, do not include his or her financial information on the FAFSA. If the parent has died after filing the FAFSA, contact the school immediately with this information.

More FAFSA Advice

To learn more about who needs to complete the FAFSA, as well as well as how to complete it, I’d highly recommend visiting Nerd Scholar’s FAFSA Community.

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