Q. For several years, I have been taking care of my brother’s student. I’m not the legal guardian and my brother and his former wife are rarely seen or heard from. How does this affect the FAFSA?

A. As long as at least one of the student’s parents is still alive, the student is considered a dependent person and the parent’s information must be reported on the FAFSA even if he has a guardian, legal or not…Unless the school has a documented reason to perform a dependency override which will convert the status to independent. To get a dependency override you will have to contact the financial aid department.

If a student is living with her grandparents or other relatives, the same principle applies. Unless the relatives have adopted the student, their income should not be reported on the FAFSA as parental income. Any cash support from persons other than the student’s parents should be reported as untaxed income. The school may also consider other kinds of support as part of the student’s financial resources and use professional judgment to include the support under the item for student’s untaxed income. Any support the student receives from his or her legal guardians gets reported on one of the FAFSA worksheets, but the student does not list them as parents on the FAFSA.

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