Will My Divorce Affect My Child’s Financial Aid for College?

Divorce is very common, especially prior to a couple’s children reaching college age. Divorce affects many aspects of life for children of divorcing parents. Aside from the physical changes (e.g. two houses), divorce also plays a major role on the mental and emotional health of the kids involved. But while it has such an impact on so many aspects of a child’s life, does it also affect financial aid for college students?

Whether or not and how extensively a divorce or separation has impacted the eligibility of financial aid is mainly attributable to which financial aid applications are required to be submitted by the student’s university in question. Colleges utilize two different financial aid applications. These applications are:

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA is much more widely used than the CSS Profile. Those who have separated or divorced parents are likely to receive a better financial aid package because FAFSA only concerns itself with the financial information of the custodial parent. The custodial parent would be the one who the student lived with the most over the past twelve months. FAFSA is not concerned with which parent claims the child on taxes or which parent pays child support. It only looks at financial information of the custodial parent.

In order for FAFSA to only consider the custodial parent’s income in divorce or separation, the parents must be residing in two separate homes. If the child has lived with both parents equally over the last year, then FAFSA will look at the individual who gave more financial support over the past year. If the parents share a home, they would both need to include their income and assets. For parents who remarry, their new spouse’s income and assets must also be reported on the application.

Essentially, by figuring out and using the lower-earning income parent on the FAFSA application, the student would likely qualify for a higher amount of financial aid.

The CSS Profile (Profile)

Profile is much less used than the FAFSA application. It is utilized by about 200 colleges and universities. Unlike FAFSA, Profile looks at contributions made by both the custodial and non-custodial parent. The parents will fill out separate forms and the numbers are added together in order to come to a family contribution. The college will also account for the cost of maintenance for two households and will therefore offset that by a certain amount.

Though FAFSA requires the income and assets of a stepparent, Profile typically will not so long as the college has already considered both biological parents’ income and assets. However, if a college is simply looking at the income of the custodial parent, it will also take into account the income and assets of the new stepparent.

How to Choose Forms

It is necessary to figure out which colleges and universities require which applications in order to ensure that reporting differences will not adversely affect the student’s ability to qualify for financial aid.

When facing a separation or divorce, it may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced family law attorney, who can discuss drafting a separation agreement. For more information contact us today!

Posted in: Family Law