Unusual Circumstance (Dependency Override) Appeal


What is an Unusual Circumstance Appeal (Dependency Override)?

In general, students must provide parent information on the FAFSA and are considered dependent for federal financial aid purposes unless they are:

  • Over the age of 24
  • Married
  • Enrolled in a Masters/Doctorate Program
  • On Active Duty in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Providing at least half of the financial support for biological or adoptive children
  • Providing at least half of the financial support for legal dependents other than children or a spouse
  • At any time since turning the age of 13 considered to be
    • an orphan
    • ward of the court
    • placed in foster care
  • An emancipated minor
  • Under a documented legal guardianship

However,  Financial Aid administrators at South are permitted by the Department of Education to make determinations for unusual circumstances.  USA performs Unusual Circumstance Appeals (Dependency Override) on a case-by-case basis.

Examples of circumstances in which an override would be granted include:

  • Abandonment
  • Parental drug abuse
  • Severe estrangement
  • Parental incarceration
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Parental mental incapacity
  • Unsafe home environment


NOTE: None of the conditions listed below, singly, or in combination, qualify as unusual circumstances meriting a Dependency Override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency

When a student requests a Unusual Circumstance Appeal (Dependency Override), third party documentation of their special circumstances is required. Examples of third-party documentation include a letter from an attorney, documentation from government offices or officials, police reports, statements from teachers, doctors, counselors, clergy, etc.  Third party statements must be signed, dated, and presented on agency letterhead. If a student cannot provide third party documentation, their request for an override is denied.  


Steps to Open an Unusual Circumstance Appeal (Dependency Override):

1. Log into the Verification Portal using your JagNet credentials;

2. Confirm the 4 key identifiers from the FAFSA (first name, last name, date of birth and social security number);

3. Click the Manage Request box in the upper right hand corner of the page and select the blue plus sign for Unusual Circumstance Appeal for the appropriate aid year. 

4. Complete the Unusual Circumstance Appeal Request Form and upload documentation to support the circumstances.


Unusual Circumstance Appeal (Dependency Override) FAQs:

Students should complete a FAFSA for the appropriate aid year and, when prompted, indicate that parent information will not be provided. This will create an unofficial FAFSA record. Once the student has received email confirmation from the Office of Financial Aid that their unofficial FAFSA has been loaded, a Unusual Circumstance Appeal (Dependency Override) can be opened. 
Allow 10 to 14 business days for committee review. If approved, prompts for parent information will be waived and the student will be classified as independent for financial aid purposes. 
The Department of Education assumes that unusual circumstances persist from year to year. However, if circumstances have changed or conflicting information is presented, students may be required to submit a new appeal. 
Independent students’ need will be determined by their household information, income, and assets only. Independent students will be eligible for an additional $4,000 - $5,000 in unsubsidized loans depending on their grade level. Independent students will not be eligible for Parent PLUS funds. 
If denied, students may email finaid@southalabama.edu to submit additional documentation and request that their appeal be re-opened for secondary review. 
Students may still receive federal financial aid in the form of unsubsidized loans if their parent has ceased providing financial support or refuses to complete the FAFSA. Students should indicate they will not provide parent information on the FAFSA and select the option for “unsubsidized loans only.” Students will be eligible for $5,500 to $7,500 in Direct Unsubsidized Loans for the year depending on their academic classification. Signed statements are required and are submitted in the USA Verification Portal
Contact the Office of Financial Aid to schedule a virtual or in-person interview. Financial Aid administrators will make a determination based on the documented interview and any written documentation provided by the student. Unaccompanied homeless youth determinations are not considered PJ. 
The U.S. Department of Education released a toolkit and guide for youth in the child welfare system who are transitioning to adulthood. Although this toolkit focuses on youth leaving the foster care system, it also provides useful information for youth who are homeless and have never been in the child welfare system. The toolkit includes information on the different types of housing options that may be available in your community.