Divorced Parents and Aid Applications

Divorced parents tend to have a number of questions about aid issues and college applications in general. Let’s start with the basics: Do both parents’ incomes count? And what about new spouses’?

As is so often the case, the answer is different depending on the aid form. The FAFSA is simple so let’s start there. The FAFSA only counts the custodial parent’s income and assets in its formula. The custodial parent is the one with whom the student lived the most in the past 12 months, regardless of who provides support. Of course, any support that the custodial parent receives from the other parent is included on the FAFSA. Note that “custodial parent” in this case is not necessarily the same as custody in divorce parlance. Although a divorce may specify equal, 50% custody, the FAFSA is looking for the parent with whom the student has his primary residence.

The CSS PROFILE, on the other hand, requests data from both parents.

What happens if a parent remarries? As applicable, the new spouse’s income and assets count too. Which is to say, if the custodial parent remarries, the spouse’s data is included on the FAFSA, but not in the case of a non-custodial parent. The CSS PROFILE would count the new spouse’s income and assets regardless of custody. Neither the schools to which your student is applying nor the federal government are party to your prenuptial agreement, so specifying in a prenup that your new spouse is not liable for college expenses does not change this.

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