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FAMILY LAW... & MORE

How should divorced parents navigate financial aid?

| Apr 19, 2021 | Divorce |

Newly divorced parents have several shifts to adjust to. For instance, how should they handle helping their shared college-bound child apply for financial aid?

Finaid provides insights into the intersection between financial aid and former spouses. Learn how to help your child and yourself at the same time.

The custodial parent’s obligation

The one who must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the custodial parent, defined as the parent with whom the shared child lived a majority of the time for the last 12 month-period noted on the FAFSA application. The custodial parent and the parent with legal custody of the child are not always the same person. Applicants who spent equal time with their mother and father should have the parent who claimed them as a dependent fill out the FAFSA.

The non-custodial parent’s obligation

Rather than gauging an applicant’s financial need according to the non-custodial parent’s assets and income, the federal government instead regards the child support the custodial parent receives. Those applying to private colleges should know that such institutions view non-custodial parents as potential means of financial support for students. That means the non-custodial parent must submit a financial aid form.

The stepparent’s obligation

If the custodial parent remarried and the applicant lives with him or her, the stepparent must note assets and income on the financial aid form. Even if the stepparent and custodial parent did not marry in the last year, the stepparent must note income and assets if she or he and the custodial parent have a marriage certificate when the applicant submits the FAFSA.

To maximize financial aid, divorced parents must follow the proper steps. A thorough understanding of the matter may help their child earn a higher education at a lower cost.