Can Student Keep In-State Residency Once Parents Move Elsewhere?

Question: My son is currently a freshman in a Florida state university. I am moving out of state for job purposes and want to know if my son can continue at his school at the in-state tuition rates. He is 18 and has been a dependent on our taxes. My wife will be staying in Florida for an undetermined time so I don't know how this would affect his tuition.

Each state has its own (usually confusing) rules that govern residency for tuition purposes. However, in many cases, when a student graduated from high school in that state and did not relocate to the state in order to attend college, he will qualify for in-state tuition, even if his parents move elsewhere (although sometimes this can require applying for a waiver or doing some other kind of fancy footwork once Mom and Dad blow town).

According to The Florida Residency Guidelines for Tuition Purposes, which were were adopted last updated in October of 2010:

For a dependent child, the legal residence of his/her parents who are domiciled outside this state is not prima facie evidence (i.e., evidence that establishes a fact if uncontested) of the child's legal residence if that child has lived in this state for 5 consecutive years prior to enrolling or reregistering at a higher education institution. [s. 1009.21(4), FS]

So, if your son lived in Florida for 5 years prior to starting college, then it doesn't matter where his parents live now.

If your son did NOT live in Florida for the required 5 years, he is okay at least at present with your wife currently still in Florida, regardless of who claims him on the tax forms. You'll find this on the same list of residency requirements cited above:

The legal residence of a dependent child whose parents are divorced, separated, or otherwise living apart will be considered Florida if either parent is a legal resident of this State – regardless of who claims the dependent individual for federal income tax purposes. [s. 1009.21(2)(c), FS]

(See for all residency guidelines.)

If your son does not meet the 5-year requirement, he will still get a 12-month grace period once your wife leaves Florida. If this does not take him to graduation (because he's just a freshman now), then he can apply for a waiver to maintain his in-state status (or perhaps your family can keep a Florida address for Mom until graduation).

Good luck with the big move. Hope you're not going someplace COLD!

(posted 1/25/2012)