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.