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Divorce, College and Financial Aid

Recently, on CBS's "MoneyWatch" a divorced mother wrote in with a relevant question about filing for financial aid for her daughter as a divorced parent. Specifically, who should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ("FAFSA") form on behalf of her child. Five helpful tips were given:

  1. Who the child lives with matters

    The parent that the child lives with for the majority of the year is the parent who should file the FAFSA form. That parent would include only his or her income.
  2. Use the correct time period

    When determining the residency of the child, do not look at the calendar year. For financial aid purposes, the parent must determine where the child lived most of the year during the 12-month period that ends on the day the FAFSA form is signed. For example, if the form is signed on February 15, 2014 the 12-month period would begin from February 15, 2013.
  3. The parent who claims the child on his or her tax returns is irrelevant

    Typically, the parent who has the child in his or her custodial care for the majority of the year is the one who claims the child for tax purposes. But, if the parties have set up another arrangement, the party filing for FAFSA does not have to worry that this would effect the form or granting of aid. Child support is also irrelevant.
  4. Remarriage matters

    If a parent remarries, the new spouse's income and assets must be reported on the FAFSA form and could impact an award of aid.
  5. The CSS/Financial Aid Profile follows different rules

    250 schools use the profile aid form which treats divorce differently than FAFSA. The major difference is that both parents income is reported, not just the parent where the child primarily lives.

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