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Professional Judgment
 
Independent Because of an Unborn Child

An unborn child counts for making the student independent if the child will be born during the award year (July 1 to June 30) and the student intends to provide at least 50% support to the child during the award year. The student's dependency status should be updated regardless of when the pregnancy is discovered. The unborn child also counts toward household size if the student reports the child as part of household size during the initial application or if the student's application is selected for verification (i.e., the pregnancy is discovered before the verification date).

Documentation consists of a letter from the student's doctor verifying the pregnancy and indicating the due date. The due date must be before the end of the award year. The letter should also indicate the number of unborn children if there are more than one. An ultrasound is also sufficient documentation of the number of unborn children. The student should also provide a written statement concerning the support of herself and her child.

Technically, a student who becomes independent by virtue of being pregnant returns to dependent student status if she has a miscarriage, the baby is stillborn, or the child dies during the award year. Many financial aid administrators, however, will allow the student to remain independent in such unfortunate circumstances. If the student is selected for verification, however, and the miscarriage occurred before the verification date, the financial aid administrator will update the student's dependency status and household size.

If the student intends to abort or aborts the child, the unborn child does not make the student independent. This is not because of a pro-life position by the US Department of Education, but because the regulations require the child to be born during the award year and for the student to support the child during the award year. If the student intends to abort, the student does not intend to support the child, and hence the unborn child does not satisfy these requirements. Likewise, if the student intends to give up the child for adoption, the unborn child might not make the student independent if the student will not be providing at least half support to the child during the award year.

An unborn child usually does not make a surrogate mother independent, as the parents of the child usually pay the surrogate mother a stipend and provide for her health care during the pregnancy. Also, the surrogate mother will not be providing more than 50% support of the child during the award year.

Note that if the mother of an unborn child is not providing more than half her own support, she cannot count as providing more than half the support of the unborn child. However, if the student is living with her parents, this does not necessarily mean that she is not providing more than half her own support. If she is providing more than half her own support and will be providing more than half her child's support, she is considered independent. In such a situation the cash support from the student's parent should be reported as untaxed income on Worksheet B. (See section 480(b)(7) of the Higher Education Act.) Financial aid administrators may use professional judgment to include in-kind support as untaxed income on Worksheet B.

As noted in the section concerning Providing More Than Half Support, money received by the parent from government benefit programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), welfare, and the earned income credit do count as part of the parent's support of the child. So even if the student is living below the poverty line and receiving some support from his/her parents, it is possible that the student could be providing more than half their own support and more than half the support of their children. The financial aid administrator should review the situation carefully and be cognizant of the issues discussed in the Income Insufficient to Support Family section.

 

 
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