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Married Students and Students (Both Married & Single) with Dependent Children

Budget/Cost of Attendance

Harvard Law School, as required by federal student aid rules, does not have a separate, fixed budget for married students or for students (married or single) with dependent children. The standard student budget ($78,700 for 2013-14) is the base expense budget used for all students, whether married, married with children, single, or single with children. The standard student budget itself does not necessarily change just because a student is married. Instead, we use additional allowances against income when calculating the student contribution. See the “Determination of Need” section below.

Married Student Income Contribution

Married students, or students expecting or planning to be married at any point during the school year, are expected to report all gross income(s) earned by either themselves and/or their spouse (or spouse-to-be) when applying for financial aid at Harvard Law School. The Law School’s policy is to assume that the full earnings and resources of the spouse/spouse-to-be will be available to help meet both basic family living expenses and, if substantial enough, to help contribute towards the cost of the student’s legal education.

As described in the Student Contribution from Summer Income section, we base eligibility for institutional funds on a projected year analysis which uses the 12-month period running from the beginning of the summer immediately preceding the academic year for which the student is seeking assistance through May 31 or the end of the same academic year. Therefore, in addition to factoring in the student’s summer income, we would also use any summer income for the spouse plus the projected academic year income for the spouse for the period between September 1 and May 31 of the given academic year.

For financial aid purposes, students are ordinarily required to work a minimum of 8 weeks in the summer, and for equity reasons a student contribution is imputed for students who do not meet the 8-week work requirement.  However, students may appeal for a maternity leave exception to this policy. In general, any student who gives birth after April 1 or during the summer will not be required to work during that summer. Students who give birth between March 1 and April 1 will have a 4-week minimum work requirement that summer. The standard summer work requirement will apply to students who give birth at any point during the academic year before March 1.

 

Aid from Public Assistance Programs

As a condition of receiving institutional financial aid, students must report all forms of external assistance, including taxable and untaxed income from any federal or state public assistance programs. All forms of public assistance (including but not limited to WIC, SNAP, TAFDC/EAEDC, or fuel assistance) received by a student, spouse or dependent child(ren) are considered as a financial resource in the determination of financial need. HLS institutional financial aid, starting with HLS Grant assistance, will be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of public assistance received.

 

Determination of Need and Allowances Against Income

As with single students, Harvard Law School uses institutional need analysis parameters to meet full financial need for all married students and/or students with dependents. However, since married students and/or students with children often incur additional expenses related to supporting a family, we allow students with families to allocate their resources towards meeting these many costs before assessing a contribution from a student's total marital income. We do this by calculating allowances against income for these students. These allowances are, for the most part, standardized amounts for specific categories of expenses. They are based on the 12-month period beginning in June of the summer before a given academic year and running through the end of May of that academic year. Students who either get married or who experience the birth of a child during the course of the academic year will receive the same allowances pro-rated for the number of months between June and May that apply to their new circumstances.

The standard family allowances include

  • a basic living allowance meant to cover expenses such as food, housing, utilities etc.,
  • allowances for family health insurance and/or the family dental plan,
  • a working spouse allowance that protects a portion of the spouse's earned income and addresses the additional expenses related to having a job (commuting, purchase and maintenance of professional clothing, etc.), and
  • an automobile allowance for students with children, or who are the custodial parent if divorced/separated

In addition to these standard allowances, we also consider granting increases to these allowances for out-of-pocket expenses such as

  • a spouse’s educational debt repayment (minimum required monthly payments only)
  • for working spouses, reasonable expenses for day care for pre-school aged children or after-school care for school-aged children (see chart below for monthly maximum allowances); these allowance do not extend to private school tuition for school-aged children
  • out-of-pocket tuition expenses (less any financial aid) for spouses who work and go to school part-time
  • 2nd residences where spouses are required to live apart for employment reasons

In these cases, we require more detailed expense documentation before granting an increase to the standard allowances against income that we would normally give.

The chart that follows provides an outline of the standard annual allowances for the 2014-2015 year. Understanding the difference between the standard student budget and allowances against income is very important in understanding how we determine financial aid eligibility for married students an/or students with dependents at Harvard Law School. For more examples, go here

 

Chart of Allowances

 

 Standard Allowances

Spouse

1st Child

Each Additional Child

Base Living Allowance

(annual amounts listed)

$14,400* 

$  7,200 (married parents)

$14,400 (single parent)

$7,200 (married or single)

University Health Services & 

Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance**

(annual amounts listed)

$  5,338 

$8,140 (Spouse & 1 Child)

$2,802 (1 Child but No Spouse)

$9,550 (Spouse & Children)

$4,212 (Children but No Spouse)

Family Dental Plan$1,000 (for 2013-2014, coverage ran from 10/1/13 through 7/31/14)

Working Spouse Income Allowance

Allowance against spouse income up to a maximum $14,400 annually

Optional Allowances 

2nd Residence

Submit documentation showing monthly expenses for the second residence; indicate what portion of the academic year both residences must be maintained

Spouse's Educational DebtSubmit documentation showing minimum required monthly payments; indicate start and end dates of repayment
Child Care (for working spouses)

Submit documentation in support of allowances up to these monthly maximums:

  • full-time child care for infants: $2,450
  • full-time child care for toddlers: $2,100
  • full-time child care for pre-school aged children: $1,650
  • full-time after school care: $450

Submit documentation in support of allowances up to these weekly maximums:

  • summer camp for school-aged children: $400
  • care during school vacations: $200
Spouse's PT TuitionSubmit documentation showing tuition costs and all related financial aid (including loans)
Automobile Allowance (for custodial parents)Maximum of $3,000/year if student is a custodial parent of a small child/children

 

*Students Married to Full-Time Students do not get this additional allowance. See Example 1 below.

**Student BC/BS costs are accommodated in the standard student budget so they are not included above as an additional allowance. Married students who will have health insurance provided by their spouse's employer have the option of waiving Harvard's BC/BS insurance by completing Harvard University Health Services' on-line waiver form. Students who do this can receive an additional allowance based on the following formula: Annual Premium (student and eligible family members) - UHS's BCBS (already built-in to student budget) = Additional Insurance Allowance. This basic formula also applies to students covered by Harvard but whose spouses and eligible family members are covered by the spouse's insurance.

Any income remaining after all of the higher allowances have been excluded from income is considered available for assisting with the student’s educational expenses and is, therefore, included in the assessment of student contribution from income.

Determining Student Contribution from Income for a Married Student or Student with Dependents

The basic formula used for determining the student contribution from income for a married student/student with dependents can be roughly calculated as follows:

 

 
 Step 1Student Summer Income
 PlusSpouse Summer Income
 PlusSpouse 9-month Academic Year Income (September–May)
  

 

 EqualsTotal Gross Income

 Step 2Total Gross Income
 LessBase Student Summer Allowance ($7,400 for Summer 2013)
 LessSpouse Cost of Living Allowances (see chart above)
 LessChildren Cost of Living Allowances (see chart above)
 LessOther Possible Allowances Given (see chart above)  
 LessTaxes
  

 

 EqualsNet Earnings

 Step 3Net Earnings
 Times90%  
  

 

 EqualsStudent Contribution From Income


Important Note for All Married Students

It is important that all married students note that whenever we calculate the student contribution from income for a married student with no dependents, we will calculate the single student contribution from income (based just on the student's income and allowances) and the married student contribution from income (based on student and spouse income and allowances). We will compare the two and use whichever is higher.

 

Students Married to Full-Time Students

Married students with full-time student spouses are evaluated exactly like a single student when determining eligibility for Harvard Law School financial aid. We assume that the student’s spouse is applying for financial aid at their own degree-granting institution and that the spouse’s own institution will provide all of the funding necessary to both pay educational and living expenses. We do not factor in any income earned by the spouse who is a full-time student nor do we allow any additional living expenses for the spouse. In terms of an asset contribution, we will use a percentage of the total value of all assets held either individually or jointly by the students and his/her spouse. The percentage used is based on the aid policy in effect at the time of initial enrollment at HLS. See the description below.

 

Non-Working Spouses

In general, Harvard Law School assumes that while the HLS students are studying, spouses will be working full-time and will use their resources from work to help support family living expenses. Students will not be able to receive additional financial aid to cover expenses related to a non-working spouse, with the exception of spouses who are staying at home to take care of pre-school aged dependents. 

For students who have non-working spouses caring for at least one pre-school aged child, we will always use the married student contribution from income calculation. Often, when this is the case, the student contribution falls below zero (i.e., a negative number) because total allowances are greater than total income. This negative number represents the difference between total income and total calculated allowable. In this case, the absolute value of the negative number will be added to the standard student budget as a Dependent Care Allowance (DCA). The DCA provides the student with an increased budget and the ability to secure additional financial aid to accommodate allowable expenses. The increase enables the student to cover the allowable costs of providing for a non-working spouse caring for at least one pre-school aged child.

 

 
  Standard Student Budget ($78,700 in 13-14)
 PlusDependent Care Allowance (Negative Student Contribution)
  

Equals Adjusted Student Budget


Examples Using Different Familial Situations

Here are examples of different familial situations for married students and the types of impact that their spouses' circumstances have on both the student's contribution and budget. Each example is based on at 12-month budget. For demonstration purposes only, we assumed student income of $0, child care of $500/month, and auto costs of $150/month d where appropriate. 

A few notes on these calculations: 

  • Spouse Base Allowance is compared to the spouse's income. Since the function of this allowance is to protect the spouse's income, in the cases where there are no children the total allowances will be capped at the amount of the spouse's income, effectively protecting all of the income without awarding additional aid on the basis of marital status. Please note: in families with non-working spouses and no children, no change is made in the Student Contribution or the student budget. Student and spouse must live within the single student budget.
  • Students with children will have a Dependent Care Allowance (DCA) calculated. If the DCA is negative this means that there is not enough income to cover family's total living allowance so the absolute value of the DCA (the amount by which the income(s) in the student budget falls short) will be added to the student budget. This generally allows for additional grant eligibility and/or additional loan eligibility.
  • These calculations look only at the spouses's foreseeable impacts on the HLS students' assessed student contribution and student budget. For more information on the student's side of the assessment, please see Student Contribution from Summer Income or Student Contribution from Assets.

Example 1: Student Married to Another Full-Time Student, No Children

  • Spouse Base Living Allowance: N/A
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: N/A
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: N/A
  • Child Care Allowance: N/A
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

When determining eligibility for Harvard Law School financial aid, the SFS policy treats HLS students with full-time student spouses exactly like single students in that we neither use the spouse's income nor do we allow any additional spousal living expenses. Please note that only the income is excluded from the calculations: we require that all assets be reported regardless of whether they precede the marriage or are individually or jointly held by either spouse. We will use a percentage of the total value of all these assets held either individually or jointly by the incoming student and/or his/her spouse as described here. The percentage used is based on the aid policy in effect at the time of initial enrollment at HLS.

Example 2: Student with a Non-Working Spouse, No Children

  • Spouse Base Living Allowance: $14,400
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: $5,338
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: N/A
  • Child Care Allowance: N/A
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

All the applicable allowances are added together to determine the Base Allowance: $14,400 + $5,338 + 0 + 0 + 0 + $7,400 = $27,138

Although these allowance are calculated, there is no change to either the student contribution from income or the student's budget (as explained here). Both the student and the spouse will have to live on the standard (single) student budget.

Example 3: Student with a Working Spouse (salary = $26,000), No Children

  • Spouse Base Living Allowance: $14,400
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: $5,338
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: $14,400
  • Child Care Allowance: N/A
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

All the applicable allowances are added together to determine the Base Allowance: $14,400 + $5,338 + $14,400 + 0 + $7,400 = $41,538

When these allowance are calculated in, there is no change to either the student contribution from income or the student's budget. As noted here, the student's contribution from income is calculated two ways -- as if the student were single and as if the student were married -- and the higher contribution is used. Since the spouse's allowances are capped at the spouse's income, they do not serve to reduce the student's contribution from income, only the spouse's.  Both the student and the spouse will have to live on the standard (single) student budget, plus the spouse's earned income.

Example 4: Student with a Working Spouse (salary = $60,000), No Children

  • Spouse Base Living Allowance: $14,400
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: $5,338
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: $14,400
  • Child Care Allowance: N/A
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

All the applicable allowances are added together to determine the Base Allowance: $14,400 + $5,338 + $1,800 + $14,400 + 0 + $7,400 = $41,538

When these allowance are calculated in, the student contribution from income increases by about $6,720 due to the spouse's income after allowances, but the student's budget remains the same.

Example 5: Student with a Non-Working Spouse, 1 Child

  • Spouse + Child Base Living Allowance: $21,600
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: $8,140
  • Auto Allowance: $1,800
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: N/A
  • Child Care Allowance: N/A
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

All the applicable allowances are added together to determine the Base Allowance: $21,600 + $8,140 + $1,800 + 0 + 0 + $7,400 = $38,940

When these allowance are calculated in, there is no change to the student contribution from income. Because there is a child, a Dependent Care Allowance is calculated through our standardized financial aid software at $38,940, based on the difference between the student/spouse after-tax income and the total allowances. The DCA is added to the budget and increases grant and loan eligibility by that much.

Example 6: Student with a Working Spouse (salary = $60,000), 1 Child

  • Spouse + Child Base Living Allowance: $21,600
  • Dependent Insurance Allowance: $8,140
  • Auto Allowance: $1,800
  • Working Spouse Income Allowance: $14,400
  • Child Care Allowance: $6,000
  • Base Summer Living Allowance (student): $7,400

All the applicable allowances are added together to determine the Base Allowance: $21,600 + $8,140 + $1,800 + 14,400 + $6,000 + $7,400 = $59,340

When these allowance are calculated in, there is no change to the student contribution from income. Because there is a child, a Dependent Care Allowance is calculated at $11,889, based on the difference between the student/spouse after-tax income and the total allowances. The DCA is added to the budget and increases grant and loan eligibility by that much. The DCA is lower here than in Example 4 because the spouse's income is determined to be at a level that offsets the need for additional borrowing.

 

Married Student Asset Contribution

Married students are asked to report the value of all assets whether held individually by student or spouse or jointly when applying for financial aid at Harvard Law School. It is our policy to add up the total value of all assets types and then factor a percentage of that total value into the calculation of an asset contribution for the HLS student. The percentage used is based on the aid policy in effect at the time of initial enrollment at HLS.

In addition, a standardized amount is automatically set aside from the calculations as an emergency reserve allowance. This allowance protects a certain portion of the student's assets in case of unexpected need. The allowance is adjusted upwards to account for a spouse and/or dependents.

If an HLS student marries during his or her studies here, we ask that all assets (student's and spouse's) are re-reported. Since it is our policy not to award additional aid on the basis of marital status, we will not lower asset amounts on the basis of marriage. If a student marries during the academic year, we will pro-rate any financial package adjustments based on the month that the marriage takes place (i.e., 5 months single + 7 months married = full year package.)

For a fuller discussion of how we handle assets in the determination of financial need please read the Student Contribution from Assets section of this website. 

Special Circumstances

Students with special circumstances or questions about the policies that govern how we determine financial aid eligibility for married students and/or students with dependents should speak with their Financial Aid Officer. We recognize that the financial demands of supporting a family become particularly evident in the course of pursuing a law degree and we are committed to working with you to help you understand the financing of your education.

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Last modified: April 23, 2014

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