FAFSA Tips for Divorced Parents

co-parenting college financial aid
FAFSA Tips for Divorced Parents

Looking for FAFSA tips for divorced parents? In many of my divorce cases, how college expenses will be handled is an issue that needs to be addressed. It's common for parents to wait to divorce until their children are teenagers or young adults. This tends to be around the same time that people are preparing to send their children to college. Unfortunately, many are unprepared for future higher education expenses.

With the introduction of the FAFSA Simplification Act, navigating the process of applying for financial aid has seen significant changes, especially for families with special circumstances like divorce. This act aims to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and make college more accessible.

4 FAFSA Tips for Divorced Parents

Applying for and paying for college can be very stressful for many parents. Co-parenting is hard enough without the stress of supporting your kids through the college application process. Often, divorce settlements don't detail how college expenses will be handled. It's outside of the jurisdiction of many states' domestic relations courts. If college expenses are detailed in the agreement, they're often vague, with limited concern around the details, adding additional stress.

Enter the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is used to determine federal financial aid such as grants, work-study, and student loans. About two-thirds of students attending college are eligible for some form of support.

The key to maximizing the financial aid your child will get is understanding and completing the FAFSA correctly. Providing too much information is the most common mistake that divorced parents make. If you report the income for too many adults, you could seriously hurt your chances of getting financial aid for your child.

With the FAFSA Simplification Act, some of the intricacies of reporting income and assets have been streamlined, making it even more crucial for divorced parents to understand the implications of their financial information on the aid application.

FAFSA for Divorced Parents Tip #1 - Collaborate with your ex

Work together with your ex to maximize the financial aid opportunities for your child. I know that co-parenting is hard. I co-parent my kids with my ex, and there have been lots of ups and downs over the years. Here's the thing. If you can really set your differences aside and put your kids' education first, there are opportunities to work together to maximize the financial aid available to your child.

If you are not able to do this on your own, consider working with a mediator to work through how you will maximize your child's opportunities for financial aid.

Related post: How to Improve College Financial Aid Opportunities When Divorcing 

FAFSA for Divorced Parents Tip #2 - How the FAFSA identifies the custodial parent

Under the FAFSA Simplification Act, the definition of a custodial parent may be more straightforward. The custodial parent for the FAFSA does not have to do with who has legal custody. For the FAFSA, the custodial parent refers to the parent who has provided the most financial support for the child during the year in question. If the custodial parent remarries, the income of the stepparent is also reported on the FAFSA. If both parents contribute the same amount to support the child, the parent with greater assets and income should be reported.

FAFSA for Divorced Parents Tip #3 - Get prepared ahead of time

Get out your divorce decree. The FAFSA will ask for the date of your divorce, so you'll need to find that. You'll also need basic info such as the child's social security number, parents' social security numbers, etc. Having tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statement handy will make completing the application easier.

Don't wait, either. While the deadline for filing isn't until June 30, you can complete the process as early as October 1. Keep in mind that the earlier you file, the more likely it will be that your child will receive grants and scholarships, as those tend to be allocated early on.

FAFSA for Divorced Parents Tip #4 - For the recently divorced

If you are recently divorced, take the time to contact the school directly. If your change in marital status happened after your FAFSA was filed, there might be additional aid available to you. You never know unless you ask.

Common Questions About the FAFSA

Do both parents fill out FAFSA if divorced?

If parents are already divorced, only one parent fills out the FAFSA. In the FAFSA tips above, we share how to determine which parent it should be.

Does both parents' income count FAFSA?

Since the parents are divorced, you only include the income for the parent who is considered the custodial parent for the purpose of the FAFSA.

Do divorced parents get more financial aid?

The short answer is no. Students of divorced parents do not get more aid because their parents are divorced. However, if the lower-income parent is not remarried and is considered the custodial parent on the FAFSA then the child may be eligible for more aid than if the parents were still married and filing the FAFSA together.

Do I have to include my stepparent's information on the FAFSA?

If the custodial parent (per the FAFSA definition) is remarried, then their spouse's income information should be included on the FAFSA.

For more information about the FAFSA or to get started with your application, visit https://studentaid.gov.

Here’s how we can help you...

We get that divorce can feel really hard and leave you with a lot of questions about how to handle your finances. After all, this is the reason Leah Hadley founded Intentional Divorce Solutions in the first place.

After her divorce, she found herself stressed and overwhelmed about how to navigate life on her own with three kids and a new financial situation.

Helping families overcome this challenge is why we do what we do.

Whether you’ve never had to manage money before, or you’re a master at investing, we are here to support you as your financial expert before, during, and after your divorce.

What our clients love most about working with us is that we’re able to help them avoid costly financial mistakes and achieve the financial stability they need to plan for the future.

We are here to help you with that, too. Learn more about our guidance no matter where you are in the divorce process.


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