Confirming Independent Status

The U.S. Department of Education has clear guidelines when determining if you are a dependent or independent student. Your dependency status is determined when you complete the FAFSA. If you answer ‘yes’ to one of the questions below when completing the application, your dependency status will need to be verified.

For the 2024–2025 year, you can be deemed an independent if you meet any of the following criteria.

  • Were born before Jan. 1, 2001
  • Are married (not separated), or remarried as of the date they apply
  • Will be a graduate or professional student when the award year starts
  • Are currently serving on active duty for purposes other than training
  • Are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Have dependents other than a spouse
  • Were an orphan, foster child or ward of the court at any time since age 13
  • Are an emancipated minor or in a legal guardianship, or was when the student reached the age of majority in their state
  • Were determined at any time since July 1, 2023, to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless

It is important to note that a reaching the age of 18 or 21, or living apart from your parents, does not affect your dependency status. Self-sufficiency alone does not make you an independent student. Neither does your parent’s refusal to sign the FAFSA or provide financial support. 

See below for additional information and required documentation to confirm your independent status. Documentation is not required to confirm a your age or grade level as our system will already have that information.

Marital Status

Definition: Students who would otherwise be dependent but are married (not separated) or remarried as of the day the FAFSA is filed. Beginning with the 2024-2025 award year, students who are separated from their spouse (and are not otherwise dependent) should select "separated" on the FAFSA and will be considered dependent for aid purposes.

Required Documentation

  • Valid marriage license

Please note that a student’s marital status cannot be updated mid-year in most circumstances.

Military Service - Active Duty and Veteran Status


Active Duty: persons currently serving on active duty in the US armed forces the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force, or Coast Guard).

Veteran: persons who served in the in the U.S. Armed Forces (the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard) and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.

The FAFSA form also tells students to answer “Yes” to the question about veteran status if they aren’t yet a veteran but will be by June 30, 2025.

Members of the National Guard or Reserves are only considered veterans if they were called up to active federal duty [as defined in 10 U.S.C. 101(d)(1)] by presidential order for a purpose other than training. It does not matter how long the active duty lasted or if the student returned to reserve status afterward, but, as with the other qualifying veterans, the student must have had a character of service that was not “dishonorable.”

Required Documentation

  • A copy of the student’s active duty orders showing current active duty status, or
  • a copy of the student’s DD214 confirming separation from the military under a status other than ‘dishonorable.’
Dependents Other Than a Spouse

Definition: Students who have legal dependents are independent. Legal dependents comprise children (including those who will be born before the end of the award year) of the student who receive more than half their support from the student, and other persons (except a spouse) who live with and receive more than half their support from the student as of the FAFSA signing date and will continue to do so for the award year. The same criteria apply to household size.

Personal Statement:

  • Who is the dependent?
  • How you support him/her/them
  • Your monthly income
  • Your monthly expenses
  • Where you live

Required Documentation

Orphan, Foster Child and Ward of the Court

Definition: A student who was an orphan—both his or her parents were dead—when 13 or older is independent even if the student was subsequently adopted. Likewise, a student who was at any time since the age of 13 a foster child or a ward of the court is independent even if his or her or their status changed later.

A student is a ward of the court if it has assumed legal custody of the student. In some states the court may impose its authority over a juvenile who remains in the legal custody of his or her parents; such a student is not a ward of the court. Also, incarceration of a student does not qualify the student as a ward of the court. In some states the phrase “ward of the state” is used; as long as it is not due to incarceration, this is considered the same as a ward of the court for dependency status.

Personal Statement

  • Where you live and how you support yourself
  • The names and (if applicable) whereabouts of your parents
  • Any pertinent details of your current situation

Required Documentation

  • Death certificates (if applicable);
  • court documentation; or
  • statements from case worker, foster family or other disinterested third party.
Emancipated Minor and Legal Guardianship

Definition: Students are independent if they are, or were upon reaching the age of majority, emancipated minors (released from control of their parent or guardian) or in legal guardianship, both as adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction in their state of legal residence at the time of the adjudication. The emancipation must be determined by a court, not by an attorney, though the basis for it can vary by state. 

Students placed in legal guardianship to their parents—e.g., if they are disabled adults and under their parents’ care—are not independent for Title IV program purposes by this criterion and would answer “No” to Question 54. Similarly, guardianship of a person’s estate does not qualify as a legal guardianship for this purpose. They should also answer “No” and contact your school if custody was awarded by a court and the court papers say “custody” instead of “guardianship.” Most states have a clear definition of legal guardianship that is distinct from custody, but if a given state does not, ask your school’s legal counsel for help with this question.

Personal Statement

  • Who is/are your guardian(s)
  • How they are related to you
  • The names and current whereabouts of your parents
  • Where do you currently live
  • If emancipated, the details of your emancipation including the date of the order and your age at the time
  • Who supports you or how you support yourself

Required Documentation

  • Court documentation that clearly indicates “legal guardianship” (not custody)
  • Corroborating third-party documentation may be required if the court documentation is dated prior to the student’s 13th birthday

Definition: A student is independent if at any time on or after July 1, 2021 (irrespective of whether he or she is currently homeless or at risk thereof), the student is determined to be an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless. This determination can be made by: a school district homeless liaison, the director (or designee) of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the director (or designee) of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

Personal Statement

  • Outline of your current situation
  • Where you live and how you support yourself

Required Documentation

  • Statement from high school or school district homeless liaison on official letterhead,
  • statement from the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program, or
  • statement from the director of a runaway or homeless youth center or transitional living program on official letterhead.

You must provide the requested documentation to receive an aid offer. You will be notified of the request(s) via weekly email and a notification on the SFS channel of the Costs and Aid tab of TUportal. We strongly encourage you to submit documentation as soon as possible. You are only required to submit documentation the first time your file the FAFSA as an independent student. Please note that changing the reason for independent status will result in additional requests in subsequent years.