Divorce comes with unique complications and nuances for all parties involved. How does dissolving a marriage affect financial aid when shared children apply for college?
U.S. News & World Report explores the question to offer tips and insights. Parents and college-bound students alike must know how to maximize whatever financial aid they qualify for.
Refrain from supplying too much financial information
Financial aid applications do not need financial information from every parental figure, such as stepparents. Listing everyone’s financial information could make it look like the applicant has access to more funds than she or he does. It is most favorable to only list the custodial parent’s financial information. This may include a stepparent’s financial details if the biological parent remarried. That said, applying for financial assistance at a private school may require applicants to submit a non-custodial parent’s financial information. Doing so may not affect federal aid, only school aid.
Know that “parent” and “custody” do not mean the same thing
For the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, applicants and their parents must understand that the parent the student lived with for the past 365 days fits the definition of the custodial parent. The application may ask for details on “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” Rather than listing the custodial parent and the biological non-custodial parent, “Parent 2” refers to the stepparent if the custodial parent remarried.
Get clear on the non-custodial parent’s involvement
Custodial parents should approach non-custodial parents and ask if they plan to contribute to their shared child’s college education. Some divorced parents do not wish to have contact with a former spouse, so much so that they may want their child to only apply to schools that accept only the custodial parent’s financial information. Determining if the custodial parent can count on financial help from the non-custodial parent helps determine how much more financial assistance the student needs.