Monday, February 27, 2012

What if? Scenario 3

What if I will be the father of a child, but I'm not married to my girlfriend?

This question is a bit complicated to answer. The rules of Financial Aid are clear, but at the same time sometimes leave a little room for interpretation. The key in Financial Aid is not only to follow the rules, but in cases like this where there is some room for interpretation, the school has to make sure that the Dept of Ed, their accrediting agency, and their policies agree on the answer. So, the answer to this may be different from school to school.

The FA rules state that to count a child (or any dependent for that matter), you have to provide more than 50% of their support for the year. Just because you have a child doesn't necessarily mean you are automatically an independent student; the key is the 50%. The rules also state that unless you are married to your significant other, you can't count them as a member of the household unless (you guessed it) you provide more than 50% of their support for the year.

The real key to answering the question above (and what makes this a tricky question) is the phrase "will be". This means that the child is unborn. The rules on this are quite simply stated: 1.) you will provide more than 50% for the unborn child when it is born, and 2.) the child must be born before or during the award year for which you want to count it. So, if you are filling out a 2012-13 FAFSA, and the child will be born in April, then you would count the child (if the first condition also applies). If the child will be born in December 2012, you can count the child for the 2012-13 FAFSA (if the first condition applies). But if you are filling out a 2011-12 FAFSA, and the child isn't born until August, then you can't count the child since it isn't born during the 2011-12 award year.

These are just the rules as stated. The interpretation and policies of some schools differ. Schools are always allowed to go stricter than the federal guidelines. Some schools will only allow an unmarried mother of an unborn child to count the child as a member of the family on the FAFSA, but not the unmarried father. Some require documentation of how much support the father and/or mother will be contributing to the unborn child (this is especially true if the prospective student is still considered a dependent except for the factor of having a child).

The best idea for a student to ask their school what their policy is. Like it says above, there is some interpretation for schools. If the Dept of Ed doesn't agree with a school's decision in awarding aid to you, then the school is in trouble, and if the school has awarded that aid to you, then the school owes it back, which means you will have to find your education elsewhere. Schools typically want to avoid this at all cost, so they want to make sure that things are right. So, don't be too frustrated if your school won't allow such an interpretation; it may actually be less of a hassle in the future for you in some cases.

No comments:

Post a Comment