Defense of Marriage Act Implications for the Title IV Student Financial Assistance Programs
Dear Colleague Letter GEN-13-25, published Dec.13, 2013, provides guidance on the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex marriage. As a result, for Title IV financial aid purposes, a student or a parent is considered married if the student or parent was legally married in the United States, its territories or any foreign jurisdiction having the legal authority to sanction marriages, regardless of where the couple now resides, or where the aid will be used. This guidance does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
For the 2013-14 award year:
- If the 2013-14 FAFSA was filed prior to Dec. 13, 2013, and the student or the parent of a dependent student were legally married as of the date of the initial filing, but were treated as unmarried under DOMA, a FAFSA correction may be filed. The school must use the resultant Expected Family Contribution (EFC), even if that means the student's financial aid package must be modified.
- If the 2013-14 FAFSA was filed prior to Dec. 13, 2013, and the student legally married after the date of the initial filing, the school may exercise its discretion in using the updated information if it changes the student's dependency status, as is currently allowed for marital status changes applicable to opposite-sex couples.
- If the 2013-14 FAFSA was filed prior to Dec. 13, 2013, and the parent of a dependent student legally married after the date of the initial filing, the parents' marital status may not be updated.
- If the 2013-14 FAFSA is initially filed after Dec. 13, 2013, responses to the FAFSA marital status questions must be "married" if the student or parent was legally married as of the date of the FAFSA submission, without regard to whether the marriage is between persons of the same or opposite sex.
Any changes to marital status will require corresponding updates to income, family size and other information. Revised guidance on FAFSA marital status questions will be posted at studentaid.gov and available at the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4 FED AID (1-800-433-3243).
Director for Default Prevention, Compliance & Training Services
P.O. Box 3000
Oklahoma City, OK 73101-3000