January 26, 2006
Many divorced parents get confused about how their child’s financial aid will be evaluated. The main thing you need to know is that the “custodial parent” will be the one to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. The US Government determines a “custodial parent” as the parent with whom the child has lived with most during the past year. If your child has spent equal time with both parents in the past year then the custodial parent is the parent who provided the most financial support in the past year. An easy way to determine this factor is to identify which parent claims their child as a dependent on his/her tax return.
It is important to note that the above information applies to public colleges and Universities. Private colleges may ask to evaluate both parents’ finances. If you special circumstances such as one ex makes more than the other but is not willing to pay for your child’s college etc. then include this in a tactful letter to the financial aid office. Many times the school will take special circumstances into consideration.