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How to fill out the FAFSA if your parents were never married

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Mom helps daughter with homework
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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses your parents’ and your financial information to determine how much financial aid you qualify for in college. But if your parents were never married, the process may be a bit different than if they were married or even divorced.

Who is considered a parent on the FAFSA?

For purposes of the FAFSA, parents are only considered parents if they’re biological or adoptive parents or if the state has determined them to be the child’s parent.

This means that grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, widowed stepparents, aunts and uncles and anyone else who might provide for the student are not considered parents for the FAFSA unless they’ve legally adopted the student.

If you have two parents but they were never married, though, you may need to include information from only one of them.

How to fill out the FAFSA if your parents were never married

If your parents never married, how you fill out the FAFSA depends on whether they’re still living together:

  • In Step Four, state your parent’s marital status as “never married.”
  • If your parents are living together, list income and other financial information for both parents. If your parents are not living together, list income and other financial information for the parent you lived with the most or provided the most financial support in the last 12 months.
  • If your parents are not living together, make sure to include any child support payments or financial support, such as allowance, from your second parent.

How to fill out the FAFSA if your parents never married each other but married others

If your parents are married but not to each other — and never have been — you’ll still report information only about either the parent you lived with the most in the past 12 months or the parent who provided more financial support in that same time frame (or in the most recent year that you received support from one or both parents).

The difference, however, is that you’ll also include financial information for your custodial parent’s spouse, or your stepparent.

In this scenario, you’ll fill out the FAFSA as you normally would, using information about your custodial parent and their spouse. A couple of things to note, though:

  • Be sure to include child support payments if your custodial parent receives them.
  • When listing your parents’ education level, do this for only your biological or adoptive parents — it’s not required to include this information about your stepparent unless they’ve adopted you.

If you have any questions about the FAFSA or any additional requirements you may need to meet based on your situation, don’t hesitate to contact your school’s financial aid office. You may also consider asking your parents for help with the application process.

Written by
Ben Luthi
Contributing writer
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer who loves helping people learn how to live life more fully. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Yahoo! Finance and more.
Edited by
Student loans editor