The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the application for federal student aid… and if you’re like many divorced parents, you want to get a head start on helping your child prepare for college. Because Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid in the entire nation, giving more than $120 billion in grants, loans and work-study money to U.S. students each year, it’s important that you and your child work together as early as possible to put together an application.
However, when parents are divorced, there are a few things you should know.
FAFSA for Divorced Parents
Divorce can really put a dent in your family’s finances, which makes using the FAFSA even more important. The good news: Your child may be eligible for many government programs that will help cut down the amount he or she needs to borrow by way of student loans.
Filing the FAFSA Early is Important
The FAFSA submission deadline for federal aid is typically at the end of June each year, but California’s deadline is usually in March. (The California deadline means the application must be postmarked by that date.)
Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you and your child can fill it out, the better.
Which Parent’s Income Should We Use on the FAFSA?
When you and your spouse are divorced and your child is one of your dependents, your child needs to list the custodial parent’s income on the FAFSA. If you two share physical custody of your child, use the income of the parent with whom the child lived most over the past year or the parent who provided the most financial support. (Usually, it’s the parent the child lived with, but if you’re not sure, ask your Stockton divorce attorney for guidance.)
If your child lived with both parents, and both contributed equal amounts of financial support, you can usually choose which one to include on the FAFSA. It’s a good strategy to use the lower-earning parent, because that way, your child will have a better chance of qualifying for more financial aid. You can only do this if your child lived with both of you, though, and if you both contributed equal amounts of financial support.
Do You Include a Stepparent on the FAFSA?
If the custodial parent has remarried, you should list the stepparent’s income on the FAFSA. However, when you get the question that asks about parental education levels, use biological or adoptive parents only – not stepparents.
Child Support Matters
The FAFSA asks questions about your divorce, including the date your judge granted it. It also asks about how much child support the custodial parent received the previous year because child support is non-taxable. (If you receive alimony, don’t worry – it’s counted as taxable income, which means you don’t need to include it on the FAFSA. Including alimony can lower the amount of financial aid your child qualifies for. It’s already in there under taxable income, so don’t add it again.)
Do You Need to Talk to a Stockton Divorce Attorney About Child Custody, Child Support or Other Issues?
If you need to talk to a Stockton divorce attorney about child custody, child support or other issues because you’re still contemplating divorce or because your spouse has already filed, we may be able to help you.
Call us at 209-910-9865 to schedule a consultation with California divorce attorney Anna Maples today.