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Divorce and college financial aid

Parents of in Texas and elsewhere who are interested in obtaining financial aid for their college-bound children are required to file a standardized application for federal student aid (FAFSA) that requires certain financial disclosures. The income of the parents has a direct effect on the amount of aid that may be available. The rules for divorced families are somewhat different from that of married ones.

The parent who is required to list his or her income on the FAFSA is the one that the child lived with for the majority of the year, regardless of who claimed the child for federal income tax purposes. For example, if the mother claimed the child on her income tax return, but the child lived with the father for seven months out of the year, then the father's income is the one that is used on the application instead of the mother's. Accordingly, parents who have gone through a divorce do not include their combined income on the application.

When determining who is the custodial parent, it does not necessarily matter which parent pays child support. The parent that the child stayed with most for the 12 months preceding the date of the application is the one considered the custodial parent for financial aid purposes. However, if the parent who the child primarily resides with gets remarried, then that parent's new spouse's income must be included on the application since it is considered part of the household income.

In addition to assisting with the preparation of these types of applications, family law attorneys might be able to advise a person going through a divorce in a variety of other ways. Such advice may include the negotiation and preparation of property settlements and other agreements.

Source: CBS Money Watch, "How does divorce affect college financial aid?", Lynn O'Shaughnessy, September 27, 2013

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