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Filing out the federal financial aid form after your divorce

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It’s that time of year again when parents of college-aged children are busy filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the coming school year. While any parent can find the FAFSA intimidating and hard to follow, parents who have recently separated or getting a divorce may be completely unsure how to proceed.

Here’s some information that may help you:

  • The parent who fills out the FAFSA is the one that the student lived with the most over the last 12-month period.
  • This may or may not be the parent who was awarded physical custody of the child in the divorce.
  • If the custody was split evenly and it’s impossible to say which parent has custody for the purpose of federal student aid, the parent who financially supported the child the most fills out the FAFSA.
  • Child support payments count as income for the child on the FAFSA.
  • Alimony paid by the noncustodial parent must be disclosed on the FAFSA by the custodial parent as a source of income.
  • If there’s any question about which parent is considered the custodial parent, the school’s financial aid department will make the decision.
  • The decision may take into account which parent claimed the child on his or her taxes and which parent has the greater income.

Of course, filling out the FAFSA in order to obtain financial aid isn’t the only negotiation that divorced parents often have to do over their college-aged student’s school expenses. Parents of college students often contribute financially toward things like cars, car insurance, books, food and furnishings. That makes it smart to negotiate with the other parent about who is expected to pay what toward the kids’ college expenses after your divorce.

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