Determining Your Dependency Status
When you apply for financial aid, your answers to certain questions determine whether you're considered dependent or independent for financial aid purposes. If you are considered a dependent student you must report your parents income and assets as well as your own. If you are considered an independent student, you report only your income and assets (and those of your spouse, if you're married).
For financial aid consideration, Federal regulations state that you must meet at least one of the following requirements to be considered independent from your parents:
- You were born before January 1, 1994.
- You are married.
- You will be working on a master’s or doctorate program.
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- You have children who will receive more than half of their support from you.
- You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now through June 30, 2018.
- At any time since you turned 13, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care or you were a dependent or ward of the court.
- As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor.
- As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2016, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2016, the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2016, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
Dependency Override Appeal Process
Federal law provides that, under very limited special circumstances, you may submit your FAFSA without parental information. Not all situations are considered a special circumstance. The following are situations that would not be considered special circumstances:
- Your parents do not want to provide their information on your FAFSA.
- Your parents refuse to contribute to your college expenses.
- Your parent do not claim you as a dependent on their income taxes.
- You do not live with your parents.
Examples of special circumstances where you may apply for a dependency override may include:
- Your parents are incarcerated.
- You have left home due to an abusive family environment where there has been a complete breakdown in the family unit. This would include a history of documented emotional or physical abuse.
- You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).
- Psychological or physical disorders that have caused extreme dysfunction in the family unit.
If you believe you have a special circumstance that would make you independent, you may apply for an appeal for independent status by completing and returning the Appeal for Independent Status form with supporting documentation to the UMass Dartmouth Financial Aid Services Office.
What type of documentation is required?
- A personal letter from the student detailing the special circumstance
- Letters from 3 professionals, who are familiar with your situation (high school officials, clergy, physicians, therapists, social workers, etc)
- Legal documents, court records, and police reports may also be submitted with your appeal
How will your appeal be reviewed?
- Two or more financial aid administrators will review your confidential appeal
- Any decision rendered from UMass Dartmouth applies to the current award year only and only to UMass Dartmouth
- The federal government has given financial aid administrators the option to use professional judgement for extenuating circumstances, and their decision is considered final by the U.S. Department of Education.