Special or Unusual Circumstances Impacting Families

Click on each topic for details.

Changes in income or family situation: If you or your family have experienced a significant change in your financial situation or a change in your family size that is not reflected on the prior-prior year tax information used on the FAFSA you may submit a  Special Circumstance Petition.  Submitting the Special Circumstance Petition allows the Financial Aid Office to respond to events in real-time that would not otherwise be reflected in your prior-prior years taxes.  You should review the Petition form carefully to see if your situation is something the Financial Aid Office can consider in order to recalculate your financial aid eligibility.


  • Loss or reduction of employment, wages, or unemployment compensation
  • Loss of untaxed income or benefits e.g. Social Security benefits or child support
  • High medical expenses
  • Separation or divorce
  • Disability of spouse or parent
  • Death of parent or spouse
  1. File a FAFSA for the appropriate aid year and follow-up with any additional documentation that is needed to complete your financial aid file.
  2. Submit the Special Circumstance Petition

Which form do I complete?

  • Complete the  dependent formif you were required to provide your parental information on your FAFSA
  • Complete the  independent formif you were not required to provide parental information on your FAFSA.
  1. Attach any necessary supporting documentation (dependent on situation, examples of acceptable documentation is included on the form)

Acceptable documentation may include:

  • Supplementary information, as necessary, about the financial status or personal circumstances of eligible applicants as it relates to the special circumstances.
  • Tax information to show changes in income; or W2’s or paystubs to show new income
  • Marriage/Divorce or Separation Documents
  • Documentation of high medical debt or other high debt
  1. Follow-up on Loboweb to see if there are any additional documents needed after you submit
  2. Decision will be made within 60 days of receiving all necessary supporting documentation
  3. A petition is required each FAFSA year
Dependency status defines the degree to which your parents are viewed as responsible for your education. If you do not meet the definition of an independent student, but you believe you have extenuating circumstances that would allow you to receive financial aid as an independent student, you can submit a Petition for Independency Status to the Financial Aid Office to have your situation considered. Be aware that parental disagreements and refusal of your parent or stepparent to provide support or information is not considered an unusual circumstance for the purpose of achieving independent status for financial aid. Being self-supporting, in and of itself, is not a sufficient reason for independent status either.


  • Parents are incapacitated
  • Parent Abandonment
  • Parent incarceration
  • Parents become deceased after filing FAFSA
  • Refugee or asylee status
  • Victims of Human Trafficking
  1. File a FAFSA for the appropriate aid year and follow-up with any additional documentation that is needed to complete your financial aid file.
    1. On the FAFSA you can indicate that you cannot provide parental data on the FAFSA and indicate you have an “unusual circumstance”
    2. You will be granted a “provisional independent status” until you follow-up with the Financial Aid Office and provide necessary documentation
  2. After completing the FAFSA, submit the Petition for Independent Status form

Additional info for completing the petition:

  • From the unm.edu forms webpage; choose the appropriate academic year; navigate to “petition forms” section and choose “Petition for Independent Status” form
  • When submitting the petition, be sure to explain in detail your reason for petitioning and provide supporting documentation including letters of support from friends, families, or community members that support your position. You should access Loboweb (financial aid tab) to see the outcome of your petition or for any additional documentation that may be requested of you.
  1. Attach any necessary supporting documentation

Acceptable documentation may include:

  • A documented interview between the student and the financial aid administrator;
  • Submission of a court order or official Federal or State documentation that the students’ parents or legal guardian are incarcerated;
  • A documented phone call or written statement from an attorney, a guardian ad litem, a court-appointed special advocate (or similar), or a representative of a TRIO or GEAR UP program that confirms the circumstances and the person’s relationship to the student;
  • A documented determination of independence made by a financial aid administrator at another institution in the same or a prior award year; or
  • Utility bills, health insurance, or other documents that demonstrate a separation from parents or legal guardians.
  • A State, county, or Tribal welfare agency;
  • An independent living case worker who supports current and former foster youth with the transition to adulthood; or
  • A public or private agency, facility, or program servicing the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence.
  1. Follow-up on Loboweb to see if there are any additional documents needed after you submit
  2. Decision will be made within 60 days of receiving all necessary supporting documentation
  3. A petition is not required each year to make a determination for independent status; however, if your situation does change you must let our office know or if we encounter conflicting information we may ask for new documentation from you to support the continuation of your independent status.
  • Updates to dependency status:You must update anything that changes your dependency status (for instance, you are now pregnant or are now in legal guardianship) except a change in your marital status. If your marital status changes, you can contact the Financial Aid Office and submit documentation and the Special Circumstance Petition. It is important to note that you are not allowed to make  changes to marital status once your FAFSA is signed, the financial aid office would have to update your FAFSA for you.  If you have a change in dependency you can update your FAFSA yourself (except in regards to marital changes) or you can submit the corresponding documentation to the Financial Office and we can make the changes for you (for example: submit legal guardianship documents or proof of birth of a child or proof of pregnancy, etc.).  

Foster Youth or Ward of the State (Court)

The term "ward" means "dependent" of the court.  Being a dependent child of the county (or state) is the same as being a ward of the court. You can still be a ward of the court if you have a legal guardian or foster parents, but check with the court for your current status. If you are a foster youth or ward of the court, you are considered independent for FAFSA purposes and are not required to provide any parental data on the FAFSA. If you are in Foster Care, please:

  1. Answer “yes” to the foster care question on the FAFSA if at any time since you turned age 13 you were in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court, even if that is no longer your situation.
  2. Students in foster care can bring letter of proof from CYFD to UNM Registrar’s Office for waiver 
  3. Read more about  Foster Youth or Ward of the State (Court) and how to get Financial Aid.

Request an increase to your COA: If you have costs that differ significantly from the standard COA you can submit the  Cost of Attendance Increase Request form. The form can be obtained from the  Student Financial Aid home page by clicking on the 'Forms" menu located on the top of the page. Choose the corresponding aid year and submit the completed form to the Financial Aid office. Please note that adjustments to COA do not always result in an increase in aid.


  • Medical/dental expenses (submit copies of paid receipts)
  • Additional tuition or course fees (will be verified in the system)
  • Additional books and supplies (submit copies of paid receipts)
  • Car repairs (submit copies of paid receipts)
  • Computer purchase (submit copies of paid receipts)
  • Expenses related to international or national student exchange (submit budget sheet from Study Abroad Office and any paid receipts)
  • Travel expenses from home to UNM (home address will be used to determine mileage to UNM, must reside more than 10 miles from campus) or travel to work

Parents refuse to provide their financial information:

Parents refuse to sign the FAFSA. Refusing to provide parental data does not in and of itself make you independent. The FAFSA application explains that if your parents don't support you and refuse to provide their information on the application, you may submit your FAFSA form without their information. However, you won't be able to get any federal student aid other than an unsubsidized Direct Loan—and even that might not happen.

Please review the section on “Unusual Circumstances” to see if you may be eligible to submit a Petition for Independent Status.


Official and Unofficial Withdrawal: If a student begins instruction at UNM, receives federal financial aid, and then withdraws from all classes (or fails to earn any credit for a semester), their financial aid may be adjusted according to federal regulations. The regulations state that students earn their financial aid based on the period of time they were actually enrolled. If you completely withdraw or do not earn any academic credit for the semester your financial aid may be prorated based on the last date you attended an academic related event. To earn 100% of your financial aid and not owe the University you have to attend at least 60% of the semester (this is known as the 60% date). The last date of attendance is provided by your instructors when they assign a withdrawal or non-passing grade for the course. If you withdraw prior to 60% of the semester being completed, you may have to repay a portion of the financial aid you received. The amount you will owe back to UNM cannot be determined until you have actually withdrawn and your Last Date of Attendance is reported by your professors.


Non-degree Students and Financial Aid: In general Federal Regulation requires that students be admitted to a degree granting program in order to be eligible for Financial Aid. This means that Non-degree students are NOT eligible for Financial Aid. However, there are two allowable exceptions to this rule:


Financial Aid Process for Non-Citizens:

Complete the UNM Application for State Aid
 1. Submit to UNM Financial Aid by March 1
 2. Answer "Yes" to Work Study if interested
Complete your File
 3. Submit all unsatisfied requirements to UNM by March 15 to be eligible for priority funding
 4. Incomplete files will not be awarded
Review Rewards
 5. Review State Financial Aid award(s)
 6. If offered Work Study, you will need to accept the award to use it
 7. The Lottery Scholarship and Opportunity Scholarship do not require a FAFSA, if you are deemed eligible you will be awarded automatically.

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