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How divorce may affect financial aid

If you are going through or have ever been through a divorce, you know it is never an easy or emotionless process. Separating from someone and the life you have come to know has the capacity to throw your entire world into a tailspin, and it may seem hard to see the positive side of the situation, particularly if children are involved.

There is at least one area, however, where getting divorced may benefit you in the financial sense. You may find it easier to secure financial aid for a college-bound child after you divorce than you might have been able to do prior, particularly if you are the primary custodial parent and seek financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The FAFSA vs. the CSS Profile

The FAFSA is the most commonly used application for financial aid, and here is how being divorced may benefit you when it comes time to fill it out. When determining how much aid to award, the FAFSA looks only at the income of the parent with primary custody (meaning the parent with whom a child lives more than half of the time). The income of the other parent will be ignored and will not factor in when deciding how much money your child will get for school. What will factor in, however, are any child support payments that parent makes to you to support the child. If you divorce and then remarry, however, the income of your child's stepparent will have to be included on the FAFSA.

The CSS Profile, on the other hand, is less common and is generally used by only a handful of schools, comparatively speaking. Often, schools that rely on the CSS Profile will require that the noncustodial parent's income is also included on the form, and the amount of aid your child may receive will likely depend on the final amount. In other words, you may find it hard to secure much financial aid if your child's noncustodial parent makes a good living, even if he or she is not planning to contribute much to your child's college tuition. The CSS Profile is also different from the FAFSA in that even if you remarry, it typically relies exclusively on the income of your child's biological parents and will generally ignore the earnings of your new spouse.

For more about financial planning and prepping to send your kids to school after divorce, consider getting in touch with an attorney.

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