How do you determine if you are dependent or independent on your Federal Student Aid application? The Department of Education uses a very rigid set of criteria for determining whether a student is Independent for financial aid consideration (which means that the custodial parents’ income and asset information is not considered in determining a student’s financial aid, and therefore not required on the FAFSA).
Regardless of how much support a student actually receives from his or her parents, he or she is still considered a DEPENDENT student for financial aid purposes unless at least one of the following criteria is met
Read more here http://www.sfas.com/understanding-fafsa/fafsa-dependency
Many students feel that they should be able to declare Independent status because they live on their own, file their own taxes, or receive no support from their parents. Unfortunately, the Department of Education is extremely strict with regard to determining dependency status.
If you are considered a Dependent student (do not meet the criteria listed above) and do not provide your parents’ information on your FAFSA, your application will be rejected. A dependent student should report his/her and the parents’ information.
If you are an independent student, you should report your own information, which includes your marital status and of your spouse’s information.
The federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. And because a dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength.
If your legal parents are married to each other, or are not married to each other and live together, you should report information about both of them on your FAFSA. That would be your legal parents, who are your biological or adoptive parents, or your parents as determined by the state—for example, if the parent is listed on your birth certificate.
However, many situations are a little more complicated, you must understand that you cannot be considered independent of your parents just because they refuse to help you with this process. If their information is not provided, your application will be rejected.
If you have no contact with your parents and don’t know where they live, or you’ve left home due to an abusive situation, fill out the FAFSA and then immediately get in touch with the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend.
The financial aid staff will tell you what to do next. Learn more about how to fill out the FAFSA if you have special circumstances that prevent you from providing parent information.