Divorce and Financial Aid

Completing financial aid applications can be very difficult and it becomes even more complex if your parents are divorced or separated. The reality is that divorce rates are increasing (especially in the Western world), and many of these marital separations are not amicable. It leads many college applicants to wonder then: how can I apply for financial aid if my parents don't get along?
The best case scenario in a divorce, as it relates to college applications, is parents who are willing to put aside their differences for the sake of their child's higher education. Colleges and government funding agencies consider children under the age of 21 to be parental dependents! So it's important that parents support their applicant 100% along the way.
The rules of divorce in the financial aid process are different depending on where your financial is coming from (largely based on your citizenship status). So it's important to pay keen attention to the requirements for your specific lending institution / college or university.

First thing to note: who does FAFSA consider as a parent?

FAFSA only recognises legal (birth and/or adopted) parents. Other parental figures, such as grandparents, foster parents and legal guardians are NOT considered parents by FAFSA.

Normally, when completing the financial aid application, you would list particulars of both parents and these would work to influence the decision on how much aid you are to recieve . But, if your parents are divorced or legally separated, the process of determining aid works a little differently and this is greatly impacted by you and your parents' living situation.

If your parents are divorced but are still living together, both their information will need to be submitted.

But, if your parents are divorced but are living separately, only one parent's information ought to be submitted - the custodial parent. The parent whose information you will submit would be the one with whom you have lived most for the past 12 months (to the date of the application). If you lived with both parents equally, then you would submit information of the parent from which you have received the most financial support over the past 12 months (to the date of the application).

Note: If your divorced parent remarries, and you have lived with that parent more, or have received most financial support from that parent, over the past 12 months (to the date of the application), you will also need to submit the information of that step-parent.

International students are not eligible for federal funding, and therefore are not required to complete the FAFSA. Therefore, the majority (if not all) of financial aid for international students will come directly from the college or university. Applications for these typically are done via the CSS Profile, or and individual school specific financial aid process.
In the eyes of many US colleges, regardless of marital status, both alive parents have a responsibility to play in contributing towards the education of their child. This means, that regardless of marital status, both parents MUST play a role in completing financial aid forms.

What if the student only lives with one parent?

The parent who the student has lived with for more than 50% of the past 12 months OR has financially contributed towards more than 50% of the student's expenses for the past 12 months, is typically considered the CUSTODIAL PARENT. The other parent is considered the NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT.
Both biological parents typically will be required to complete individual forms on the CSS Profile application - don't worry, both applications are SEPARATE. The non-custodial and custodial parent will not be required to review the application of the other.
There may be instances where a college only requires that the custodial parent submit an application, but this requirement varies by institution, so it's important to check on these requirements for each school that the student is applying to.

But what if one parent is just absent?

In most cases whereby a college requires both biological parents to submit information, indication of an absent parent must be communicated via an official statement, indicating that the absent parent does not contribute to the child's life for legal reasons. This statement would accompany your custodial parent's financial aid application.

Of course, there may be exceptions to this, which is why it is always important to check in with the financial aid office of the colleges of interest for more specific details on how they handle this matter.

For more detailed information applying for financial aid with divorced / separated parents, contact AIM today! We are ready to share and expertise and knowledge to help you win!
Author: AIM Online Academy
AIM Online Academy (was AIM Educational Services) is the leading college prep provider in Jamaica, that helps students maximize their potential as they make the journey towards college in the US, UK and Canada. For over a decade, AIM's team of College Experts & Essay Coaches have assisted students from all over the Caribbean, the USA and Canada get into the college of their dreams with enough scholarship and financial aid to actually attend.

You can find out more about how AIM Online Academy can help YOU here: http://www.aimonlineacademy.com

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