How to explain your family situation for financial aid application

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By Susan Pohorski

If your family is more like Modern Family than Home Improvement be prepared to explain the complex relationships to the federal government when your student applies for college financial aid.

For first time filers, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be daunting. When your child is filling out the FAFSA you must answer questions about parental status and give your financial information.

If you and your spouse are divorced or separated and do not live together, the student should answer questions about the parent they lived with most in the last 12 months. In cases where the student lived with parents equally, he or she should answer questions based on the parent who provided more financial support during the past year.

Children who have stepparents must also provide information about them to give an accurate picture of the total family financial situation.

When the student lives with someone other than biological parents, he or she must still give information about their legal parents. Grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older siblings, uncles or aunts, and widowed stepparents are not considered parents for the FAFSA process unless they have legally adopted the student.

Students must file parental information similar to the information they provide about themselves including identity, living situation and financial circumstances.

For more information about parental status for the FAFSA visit




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