It is important for divorced parents to be aware of the specific challenges and benefits that children of divorced parents experience when applying for financial aid. Families are required to complete a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) when applying for federal subsidized loans and Pell grants. If you are currently negotiating a Massachusetts divorce agreement, it is important to consider the following factors before you finalize your agreement.
Potential Advantages to Being Divorced
If the parents are divorced, the custodial parent files the FAFSA. The parent with whom the child has lived with the majority of the time over the last 12 months is considered the custodial parent. Typically, a lower income parent will qualify for more financial aid for the student. In order to maximize the financial aid package, the parties may want to agree on a parenting plan that provides the lower wage earner with the majority of parenting time. The parties can agree that the lower income earning parent will have the child 183 out of 365 days. It is important to note that the parent who puts his/her name on the FAFSA must include the stepparent’s income if remarried.
Potential Disadvantages to Being Divorced
Even though the FAFSA does not require the non-custodial parent’s financial information, individual colleges may. Typically, private colleges require information about the non-custodial parent’s financial situation. This requirement can be overcome if the non-custodial parent is not part of the child’s life, but proof is required.
A major disadvantage to children of divorced parents seeking financial aid is that certain colleges require the stepparents financial information when qualifying a child for financial aid. This means that a child could have four sources of income that the college takes into consideration when determining financial aid.
Before agreeing to a Massachusetts divorce agreement make sure to discuss the above information with your Massachusetts divorce attorney.