Sep 28, 2021
Financial Aid for the College Student of Divorced Parents
Many families have just dropped their children off at college. The tuition bills for the 2021-22 academic year have been paid for the fall semester. Most families rely on financial aid to assist them in the heavy costs of tuition, room and board, books and fees. This is challenging for married couples, but what about those families affected by divorce? Hopefully this article will outline some items for divorcing or divorced couples to help them through their children’s college years.
Christina Lombardo-Zaun, Esq., an Attorney-Mediator at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation discusses financial aid for divorcing or divorced couples to help them through their children’s college years
Most families have to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FASFA), but if you are divorced, then only one parent needs to do this. (WARNING: Completing the FASFA takes time!! It can be frustrating!). In all seriousness, one parent will have to complete the FASFA but there are reasons why one should complete it over the other. If the student lives with both divorced parents and receives equal financial support from both, then the parent with the lower income should be the one to file as he/she will have a better (not guaranteed) chance of earning more financial aid for the student. The student should live with that particular parent one more day of the year or receive just a little more financial support in order to list them as the custodial parent. Note that the FASFA considers child support and alimony in its calculations. This might put both parents on equal financial footing so it is worth taking into account.
What makes this more confusing is that the FASFA definitions of marriage, divorce, or separation are different from the legal definitions. FASFA cares about whether a student’s legal parents (biological or adoptive) live together in the same household. If they live together (regardless of their marital status), FASFA will want financial information from each parent. Parents who are legally married but lead separate lives and live separately and apart are not considered married for FASFA purposes. It also does not matter who has “legal custody”. The student will only need to submit information about the parent with whom they lived the most or who provided the most financial support in the last twelve months.
Also know that there are deadlines! Both the FASFA and individual colleges and universities have deadlines and they are not always in sync. The FASFA has permanently changed its beginning submission date to October 1 instead of January 1. The deadline is still listed as June 30. So, for 2022-23 academic year, families will use their 2020 taxes. When completing this form, it is important to have certain pieces of data handy: social security numbers, federal tax returns, W2’s, bank statements and records of investments (if applicable), and records of untaxed income. If the child is a dependent, then you will need his or her information as well. You will have to go to the website to complete a FSA ID to sign electronically. (www.studentaid.gov)