Determining Who is a Member of the Household for the FAFSA

Believe it or not, one item that confuses students more than any other when completing the FAFSA or the verification process is correctly reporting who is a member of their household. The Department of Education provides some guidance, but it leaves some questions unanswered.

Dependent Students

You are a dependent student if you are required to include your parents’ information on the FAFSA. When you are completing the FAFSA or verification, the household size you will need to use is that of your parent(s)’s household, even if you do not live with your parent(s). You should include:

  • Your parent(s). If your parents are married to each other or unmarried but live together, you include them both. If your parents are not married to each other, you include the parent with whom you most recently lived.
  • If the parent you most recently lived with is remarried, you must include their spouse, even if they were not yet married in the tax year on the FAFSA.
  • Anyone who the parent you most recently lived with supports financially (at least 50%), such as siblings or other relatives whom your parent supports.

Independent Students

You are an independent student if you were not required to include your parent information on the FAFSA. When you are completing the FAFSA, you should include in your household:

  • If you are married, include your spouse and their income information, even if you were not married during the tax year on the FAFSA.
  • Any children or other dependents for whom you provide at least 50% of the financial support. If you (and your spouse) do not provide at least half of the financial support for a child, they should not be included.

There are some commonly included household that should not be included on the FAFSA. Do not include the following into the household:

  • Unmarried domestic partners, except in the case that you are financially supporting that person.
  • The children of unmarried domestic partners, unless you are financially supporting them.