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Divorce Can Affect Your Children’s Financial Aid

San Diego, CA – School is back in session and thousands of California teens have entered their college years.

Many divorced parents have already learned the difficult way that financial aid can be a challenge, so we’re sharing important information regarding some considerations for divorced parents of college-aged children.

A common question asked of a family attorney is which divorced parent’s financial information should the student use on financial aid forms such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile.

Children of unmarried, separated or divorced parents must report the financial information of the parent with whom they live on their financial aid paperwork, according to Mark Lindenmeyer, Loyola University’s financial aid director, who was quoted in a Forbes article.

For a student who lives with each parent equally, the parent who provides the most support to the student provides his/her information on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Parents who have child custody and are remarried also must report the stepparent’s information.

A custodial parent’s remarriage can alter a child’s financial aid eligibility, says Lynn O’Shaughnessy in a CBS MoneyWatch article. “When the custodial parent remarries, the new spouse’s income and assets must be reported on the FAFSA,” the article states.

Accuracy is important when determining your child’s residency. Don’t look at the calendar year. When it comes to federal student aid, the custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived the most during the past 12 months. This 12-month period isn’t according to the calendar year. Instead, it is the 12-month timeframe that ends on the FAFSA application date, according to FinAid.org.

Here’s something you may not realize: biological parents who never married are treated just as divorced parents, and child support and/or spousal support received from the noncustodial parent has to be included on the FAFSA.

“If you’re a noncustodial parent, you also may be asked to provide your financial information so your child can be considered for scholarships and other financial aid at the institutional level,” says John Griffith, a divorce lawyer who represents clients in Oceanside, Encinitas, Carlsbad and San Diego.

Individuals going through divorce or legal separation already have a lot on their minds, but if you have teenagers who are college-bound, it’s a good idea to consult your attorney on these matters if you’re concerned about maximizing your child’s financial aid probabilities, says Griffith, who also represents clients in child support cases.

Contact us if you have questions about custody, support and how these factors will affect your children as they head to college.