Documenting Independent Status

The FAFSA asks a series of questions to determine if a student is dependent or independent for aid purposes. If a student's answer to these questions identifies them as being independent, UM requires proof of independence in certain situations.

Students whose sole claim to independence is based on one of the items below, will need to provide additional documentation before the student's application can go through final review.

In some cases, students are unable to provide the required documentation to prove independence, but are able to provide adequate documentation to be granted a dependency override. The determination of which is more appropriate is made by the staff in the financial aid office after review of the documents supplied.

Students unable to provide satisfactory documentation to prove independence, and who cannot qualify for a dependency override, will be expected to correct the answers on the FAFSA and provide parental information as required by the FAFSA instructions.

Independence Questions Requiring Additional Documentation

Students who are active duty military need to provide a letter from their commanding officer detailing their branch of service and anticipated discharge date.

For federal aid purposes, the definition of a veteran is different than that of the Veteran's Administration. To prove veteran status for aid purposes, a student must submit a copy of the DD-214, member 4, showing at least one day of enlistment, and that they were not dishonorably discharged.

Students who are in the reserves or National Guard are only considered veterans if they were called up for active duty (not for training) as indicated on the DD-214.

If, since turning age 13, both of a student's parents have died, then copies of the parents' death certificates need to be provided.

Similarly, a student who was in foster care or was designated as a Ward of the Court at age 13 or later, must provide copies of legal documents supporting that claim.

Incarceration does not make a student a Ward of the Court for aid purposes.

If a student's parents both died prior to the student turning 13, and the student was subsequently adopted before turning 13, they would be a dependent student, reporting the adoptive parents' income. If the adoption occurred after they turned 13 then they would be independent since they had no legal parents living when they turned 13.

A student who has gone through the process of becoming an emancipated minor must supply copies of the court documents granting the student emancipation.

Similarly, a student who has legal guardians (a parent is not considered a legal guardian) must supply copies of the court documents detailing the guardianship. Legal guardianship that is temporary in nature, e.g. so that the student can complete high school where they are, rather than relocating with parents, does not qualify a student to be independent.

Students who claim that they are homeless, or at risk of being homeless, must provide verification from a person of authority, e.g. someone operating a shelter or a high school guidance counselor.

Homelessness is defined as someone who does not have a stable living situation and can include couch surfing.

It can be challenging to provide the required documentation in subsequent years. Many students find it easier to go through the process of being granted a dependency override, which is easily renewable in following years.