NAICU Washington Update

FAFSA to Reflect DOMA Ruling

December 17, 2013

On Friday, December 13, 2013, the Department of Education provided guidance in a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) on how the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in United States v. Windsor overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be considered in determining federal student financial aid.

The expansion of the definition of “marriage” to include same-sex couples, means that the FAFSA and the need analysis calculations of dependent students of married, same-sex parents and married, same-sex independent students will be affected. The guidance explains the slightly different impact on the application for financial aid for FY 2013-14 and FY 2014-15 and after. The guidance provides details on changes to the FAFSA and, where needed, to make adjustments to previously filed FAFSAs. As a result of the change, some students may receive less aid while others may receive more

As stated in the DCL:

For purposes of the Title IV HEA programs, a student or a parent is considered married if the student or parent was legally married in any domestic or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as a valid marriage, regardless of where the couple resides. The Department is applying a “place of celebration” rule and, accordingly, has determined that any legal marriage that is recognized by the jurisdiction in which the marriage was celebrated will be recognized for Title IV HEA program purposes without regard to whether the marriage is between persons of the same sex or opposite sex, and without regard to where the couple resides. This determination applies to both a student and to the parents of a dependent student. It also applies to a student attending an institution located in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage and in a jurisdiction (e.g., a state) that does not recognize same-sex marriage. Further, this determination applies only to marriages and does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law. Finally, this determination is relevant to all questions concerning marriage and marital status on the FAFSA.

The recent DCL also references earlier guidance regarding change in the use of gender-neutral terms and the inclusion of income information from unmarried parents living together. The FAFSA has always collected information about both of a student’s married parents. However, income and other information from a student’s legal, but unmarried, parents was not included on the FAFSA, even if they are living together. The new federal definition of marriage from the Supreme Court’s ruling will now recognize married same-sex couples. The change will not impact the current way divorced parents are treated, nor will it include same-sex couples who are not legally married.

MORE News from NAICU