<p>It's a federal definition.</p>
<p>There are basic requirements a student must meet to be considered an independent student (see The Guide to Federal Student Aid for criteria). If you do not meet these requirements but you still believe you are truly independent of your parents, you may appeal for a "dependency override" with our office. The example below describes the conditions of an acceptable override, but if your situation is different please bring it to our attention for review.</p>
<p>INVOLUNTARY DISSOLUTION OF FAMILY</p>
<p>To demonstrate the "involuntary dissolution" of your family you must present:</p>
<p>A letter written by you which states that you do not and cannot have contact with your parents and also explains what precipitated the dissolution of the family.
A letter from a third party (someone not related to you) stating that you do not and cannot have contact with your parents. The letter must be written by someone:
who is professional (preferably your social worker or case worker, a member of the clergy, or a lawyer who has been represented you in legal proceedings), and;
who has personal, first-hand knowledge of your familial situation.
A copy of your completed FAFSA, which must be submitted as if you were an independent student.
If you can provide the appropriate documentation, a dependency override will be considered for you and your financial aid award may be changed based upon an independent status. (Note that just because a student is considered "independent" does not necessarily mean a student's aid will increase.)</p>
<p>From the NYU wesite</p>