POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Marital Status and College Financial Aid Forms

Cliché: The status quo.    
POCS Reality: Financial aid forms ask about marital status.


How does marriage, divorce, or separation impact financial aid forms for college? Marital status determines which parent must supply information including financial data such as income and assets. Sometimes that means stepparents’ info is counted, too.

The government and the colleges analyze information about the dependent student’s family including financial data of parents but whose info is included depends on if parents are married or remarried, widowed, single, divorced, or separated as of the date the form is completed and signed.

All schools require the filing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  before awarding federal aid to students to help pay for college. Some colleges want students and parents to submit additional information before awarding their own money from institutional funds.

The FAFSA wants parental information from:

  1. Both parents if they are living and married to each other
  2. Single or widowed parent
  3. Divorced/separated parent the student lived with more during the past 12 months. If student did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months, or during the most recent year the student actually received support from a parent
  4. Stepparent of remarried parent filling out the FAFSA

Under FAFSA:

  • “Married / Remarried” does not mean living together unless your parents’ state of legal residence recognizes their relationship as a common law marriage.
  • According to the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), “…the word ‘marriage’ means a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Therefore, same-sex unions are not considered marriages for federal purposes, including the FAFSA4caster.
  • The following people are not considered parents on this form unless they have legally adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

These parent definition rules apply even if the student is not living with his parents.

There is one exception to the rule. For the two FAFSA questions about parents’ education levels, your parents are considered to be birth or adoptive parents not your stepparent.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Colleges can ask for additional financial aid forms including one from divorced/separated parents not included on the FAFSA to help calculate financial aid awards from college funds.

*POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: 10 Financial Aid Forms

Cliché: True to form.      
POCS Reality: Colleges determine which financial aid applications they require to calculate financial aid awards.


There are billions of dollars in financial aid available for college from federal and state governments, college institutional funds, and outside scholarships. Awards are based on applications and colleges determine which forms they require. Here are 10 financial aid applications:

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a federal financial aid application form required by all colleges for federal financial aid including grants, loans, and work/study. In addition, some colleges use the FAFSA to award money from its own endowment funds and others require additional forms.

State financial aid may be available. Contact your state for info and an application about state-sponsored financial aid programs for state residents

Institution contact colleges on your list for additional institutional forms that the school may require before awarding money from its own endowment funds for financial aid.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® is an additional form required by a few hundred colleges before they award money from their own endowment funds.

CSS Business/Farm Supplement is an additional form for business/farm owners required by many colleges before they award money from their own endowment funds.

CSS NonCustodial Profile is an additional form for divorced/separated families required by many colleges before they award money from their own endowment funds.

Outside Scholarships sponsored by businesses, employers, individuals, high schools, fraternal organizations and other private groups have their own application forms to determine award winners.

College Scholarships from a schools’ special endowment funds may be awarded in addition to a college’s financial aid programs. Some colleges use their admission application for their scholarship programs and others require additional forms.

Verification Worksheet is to be completed if a student’s FAFSA was selected for review by the college.

Appeal institutional forms may be required by the college from students seeking a reconsideration of their financial aid awards.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: To maximize financial aid awards, submit all financial aid applications required by colleges and outside scholarships. If you believe the award is inadequate, appeal and include supporting documentation. Submit all applications before deadlines because, even if qualified, you can lose money if your application is rejected because it was submitted too late.