All articles

Who is Considered a Parent on the FAFSA?

Who is Considered a Parent on the FAFSA?


If a student is a dependent student, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed by one of the student’s legal parents. Parental information is not required if the student is an independent student.

Who is a Legal Parent?

Legal parents include the student’s biological or adoptive parents. Legal parents also include a parent who is listed as a parent on the student’s birth certificate, even if the parent is not a biological or adoptive parent. Legal parents include same-sex parents.

Legal parents include unmarried and never-married parents who are living together. The term “legal parent” refers to the relationship of the parent with the student, not the parent’s immigration status. Undocumented parents still are considered to be parents on the FAFSA.

Who is Not a Legal Parent?

Legal parents do not include legal guardians and foster parents. Students who are in a court-ordered legal guardianship are considered to be independent students. Students who are or were in foster care when they were 13 years old or older are also considered independent.

Legal parents do not include other relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins, unless they legally adopted the student.


If a student’s parents are divorced, a stepparent is considered as a parent on the FAFSA only if the stepparent is married to the student’s custodial parent as of the date the FAFSA is filed.

Prenuptial agreements do not affect whether a stepparent is considered a parent on the FAFSA. The stepparent’s income and assets must be reported on the FAFSA, regardless of any prenuptial agreements. The stepparent’s other children must be counted on the FAFSA if the stepparent provides more than half of their support, even if they do not live with the stepparent.

What Happens When a Legal Parent Dies?

If the student’s legal parents are married and one dies, do not report the income and assets of the deceased parent. Only the income and assets of the surviving parent should be reported on the FAFSA.

If the student’s parents are divorced and the custodial parent dies, the stepparent is no longer considered a parent on the FAFSA. The surviving biological/adoptive parent is responsible for completing the FAFSA.

Reporting Support from People Who are Not Legal Parents

Any support provided to the student by someone who is not a legal parent should be reported as untaxed income to the student on the FAFSA. For example, if a custodial parent passes away, any support provided by the stepparent must be reported as untaxed income for the student. This also counts for support provided by a legal guardian, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or cousin.

Create a free Appily account to find, finance, and attend the college that's right for you Get Started Now