What Happens With Financial Aid When Parents Divorce?


No doubt parents and their offspring alike are aware of the enormous expense of college tuition.  In our last article, we discussed the obligations that divorced parents may experience when it comes to their children’s tuition.  Notwithstanding, funds are not always limitless.  In some cases, it may be necessary to explore financial aid resources.   Just how does divorce impact the application?

The matter is so timely that it was recently explored in a local news article.  In fact, the question of the impact of divorce and college financial aid was actually posed by a college sophomore.  Although his or her particular query may be of interest, we’ll go into some more specifics.

College Tuition and the Divorce Decree

In most cases, the divorce decree provides some valuable information regarding the apportionment of college tuition payments.   Of course, this also includes arrangements agreed upon by the parents and approved by the court.

Although parents often have the best intentions, they may not have the resources to adequately afford tuition payments.  Therefore the financial aid application is a necessity.   Notwithstanding, there are some important details.

In reality, the divorce decree will contain a number of items that are crucial in submitting an application for assistance with college tuition.   They include:

  • Do the divorce papers assign a dollar amount or contribution percentage to tuition?
  • Is there a written requirement for the student to apply for financial aid?
  • Has one parent been designated as the custodial parent?
  • Did the non-custodial parent make child support or alimony payments?
  • Was either mom or dad responsible for more financial support?
  • Who did the college student live with?
  • How were taxes filed in the year before the financial aid application?
  • Who claimed the prospective student as a dependent on tax returns?
  • Has the custodial parent remarried?

As you may already know, applications for financial aid for college are filed on a form known as a FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Financial Aid

Filling in the FAFSA When Parents are Separated or Divorced

No doubt the FAFA can be an intimidating and cumbersome form.  For parents who have sole custody or have been designated as custodial parents, the onus is on them to complete the necessary forms.  In short, the form should be completed in accordance with the residence where the child lived within the last twelve months.  Here’s some information that can assist you in the process.

First, there is the requirement to submit income tax returns.  If you are newly separated or divorced, your last return may be one you filed with your child’s other parent.   And, if you have remarried, you must submit returns that include your new spouse’s income.

In some cases, it may turn out that the custodial parent’s resources are limited.  Since federal aid is determined on a needs basis, this may mean a greater financial award.

Obviously, these are just the basic details concerning filing for assistance with college tuition.  An experienced family law attorney can help you better understand how to make sure your children have access to continuing education.

Contact Us

Have questions about the impact of your divorce and your child’s college tuition?  Contact the Law Offices of Sam Stoia to see how we can help!  There is never a charge for our initial consultation.