How Does Divorce Affect Financial Aid Applications?

One dollar bills are on top of each other.

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Filing out financial aid applications, more specifically the FASFA (Free Application for Student Financial Aid), can be daunting already for many students. However, with those who have divorced parents, it’s important to understand how that may affect your application and awarded financial aid.

Who is Your Custodial Parent?

The parent who completes the financial aid application for you should be your custodial parent. This means the parent you live with the most out of the entire year. If you live with your mom for eight months, she will be the only person filling out the form and only her income matters. It is okay if this person differs from the one who has legal custody of you.

For cases where an equal amount of time is spent with each parent, students should ask the parent who spent the most money on their care to complete the application. If no parent has given you care in the past year, you should refer to the most recent year that you received support. You should also make sure that you are tracking the year by application dates, rather than a calendar year. Instead of January 1st to December 31st, use the date you are completing the application (January 22nd 2015 to January 22nd 2016 for example).

These rules also apply for parents who were never married to each other.

Have Your Parents Remarried?

Your parents later marriages can also have an effect on your financial aid application. If your mom remarries and you spend the most time under her care, you will have to include her spouse’s information, assets, and income on the forms.

What Financial Aid Are You Applying For?

The examples listed above apply only to the FASFA. and CSS Financial Aid Profiles, for example, have different requirements. Accepted by 250 colleges and universities across the United States, most schools in the program will request finances, income, and assets from both parents, whether divorced, separated, or never married.

However, some schools involved in the program may ask the noncustodial spouse to complete a Noncustodial Profile. If you are filling out the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, make sure to check the requirements with your desired school.

What Else Do You Need To Know?

Completing FASFA and other financial aid applications can get confusing with divorced parents. A few more things you should keep in mind are:

  • It does not matter which parent claims you on their taxes as a dependent. Your custodial parent can differ.
  • Only focus on the custodial parent (and their partner if they remarried). You are not required to complete the form for both biological parents. Doing so could result in less financial aid.
  • If your custodial parent is living with someone who is paying rent, bills, or other expenses, this should be included on the application as “other untaxed income.”

If you need assistance completing the FASFA or another financial aid application, whether your parents are divorced or not, make sure to contact your high school counselor or the financial aid department for more information. It’s important to complete the application correctly to ensure your best chance for financial aid.

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