Dependency Status Override Policy and Procedures
The basic premise of federal financial aid is that student and parent(s) have the
primary obligation to finance postsecondary education to the extent they are able.
The Belmont College Financial Aid Office supports this premise and the current federal
dependency definition. It is our policy to override the federal determination of
dependence with extreme caution and only when it is clearly demonstrated and supported
with third-party documents, that an otherwise dependent student’s parent(s) is no
longer available to participate with the student in applying for federal assistance.
When a student completes the FAFSA they are asked questions to determine if they
must include their parent’s income information or not. Sometimes students who must
include their parent’s income information are unable to do so. Belmont College Financial
Aid office under very specific reasons may override this requirement and make a
dependent student an independent and not require the parent’s information.
When you complete the FAFSA you are asked questions to determine if you are a dependent
or independent. If you can answer yes to any of the below questions you are considered
an independent. Documentation for most is required.
For the 2012-2013 academic year, you are automatically independent for federal student
aid if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You were born before January 1, 1989;
- You were married on or before the date you completed the FAFSA;
- You will be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD,
JD, or Ph.D., etc.) during the school year 2012-2013 (this is not applicable to
students attending Belmont College);
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces;
- You have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between
July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013;
- You have dependents (other than your children and spouse) who live with you and
will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2012 and
June 30, 2013;
- At any time since you turned 13, both your parents were deceased, you were in foster
care or were a dependent/ward of the court;
- You are/were an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your legal state of
residence immediately prior to that state’s recognized adult age;
- You are/were in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your legal state
of residence immediately prior to that state’s recognized adult age;
- On or after July 1, 2011, your school district homeless liaison determined that
you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless;
- On or after July 1, 2011, the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing
program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined
that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless;
- On or after July 1, 2011, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center
or transitional living program determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who
was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
- *Unaccompanied youth who was homeless is defined as:
- 21 years of age or younger or still enrolled in high school on the FAFSA filing date,
- not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, and
- lacking fixed, regular and adequate housing
If you cannot answer yes to the above or do not have the proper paperwork to verify
then you are considered a dependent student and must provide your parents income
USE OF PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT: Federal regulations permit a financial aid
officer to exercise professional judgment to give an otherwise dependent student
independent status if unusual circumstances can be documented. This determination
is made on a case-by-case basis, and must be supported by documentation provided
by the student.
WHAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Belmont College maintains
that certain circumstances cannot be considered unusual. For example, a parent refusing
to provide data, a student who does not want to ask parents for information, a student
who has been “on his/her own” for several years, and/or a student who does not want
to communicate with his/her parents will not be considered unusual circumstances.
PLEASE NOTE: Your living situation (whether or not you live with your parents
or they claim you on their tax return) does not affect your dependency status. If
you do not satisfy at least one of the Federal criteria for independent status listed
above, you are a dependent student for the purposes of Federal student aid.
Unusual circumstances may include:
- Abandonment by parents.
- An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety.
- The student being unable to locate his or her parents.
STUDENT PROCEDURES: If you are a dependent student by the federal definition,
but you believe that unusual circumstances are present that establish you as “independent”,
you can request a review of your situation by the Financial Aid Office. The following
procedure is required:
- You must complete the Dependency Status Appeal Form.
- Explain in detail why you should be considered an independent student.
- Provide documentation such as legal documents if applicable.
- You must provide written documentation from Two disinterested professional, third
party and/or agency confirming the specifics as described by you in (A). This documentation
must be in writing, on the appropriate letterhead, and must be signed (see below
for instructions). Provide Two third party documentation letters
- Submit a signed copy of your 2011 federal tax return transcript and all related
W2 forms. If you did not work you must provide a written explanation of how you
were supported during the calendar year of 2011.
- A completed Verification Worksheet (available online at www.belmontcollege.edu or
at the Financial Aid Office.
The Financial Aid Office will determine if unusual circumstances exist based on
the documentation submitted. The student will be notified in writing of the decision.
Instructions for Third Party Documentation
In extraordinary and documented cases, the Financial Aid Office has the authority
to use professional judgment to override a student’s dependency status. An approved
override would make a student independent for the purpose of applying for financial
aid. A student must be unable to obtain his/her parent’s information because of
extenuating circumstances. Parents are defined in this situation as biological or
Parent’s unwillingness to provide the information or inability to help support the
student are not acceptable reasons for an appeal. Students must submit a Dependency
Status Appeal Form and two third party reference letter to the financial aid office
for consideration of a dependency override.
The information stated in the Dependency Status Appeal Form must be verified by
a disinterested, professional third party who is aware of the student’s home situation
and can verify from first-hand knowledge the information the student has provided.
Examples of such a person include, but are not limited to: employer, clergy, social
worker, attorney, court official, teacher, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist,
medical professional, law enforcement agent, etc.
Third party documentation must be a SEPARATE statement on official letterhead. Please
include any information of which you have first-hand knowledge and that you feel
best describes the student’s situation. The following is a list of information to
include in the letter:
- How long you have known the student.
- Your relationship to the student.
- The last time the student lived with and/or received financial support from his/her
- State your direct knowledge of when the student last had contact of any type with
his/her parents. Please include information regarding both parents.
- Any knowledge of his/her current relationship with his/her parents.
- The steps that the student has taken to establish independence from his/her parents.
- Please include your professional title, name and type of business, business address,
telephone number, and where to contact you should any additional information be
The Dependency Status appeal form along with letters and any documentation should
be provided to the Financial Aid office for review. Students will receive a letter
in the mail if their appeal is accepted or denied.