October 4, 2013

FAFSA tips for divorcees

Michigan is home to hundreds of thousands of college students, with over 40,000 students enrolled at the University of Michigan alone. As such, student loans are an important and relevant topic for a considerable portion of the state’s residents. Many parents applying for a child’s student loan find it difficult and confusing, but the added stresses of child support and other related expenses can make the process even more intimidating for divorced parents.

Any student or parent seeking financial aid from the government must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, but many Michigan residents are unaware that divorced and married families must abide by different sets of rules in completing such applications.

A student’s FAFSA application should be filled out and submitted by whichever parent the child spends most of his or her time with, as the Department of Education only considers the primary caretaker’s income when making deciding on a student’s application for aid.

This can be particularly beneficial for a student who lives with the lesser-earning parent for most of the year, as this will likely qualify him or her for more financial assistance. If that parent remarries prior to the FAFSA’s submission, however, his or her new spouse’s income will also be factored into the decision.

It is important to note that a number of private universities require a different application, known as the PROFILE, in order for students to be considered for financial aid. PROFILE applications come in different versions for custodial and noncustodial parents, but whether both are required varies between schools.

Even with financial assistance, sending a child to college can be financially and emotionally straining for parents who have experienced divorce. However, consulting with an experienced and skilled family law attorney maximizes such individuals’ chances of a positive property division, child support or alimony decision, making college expenses more affordable.

Source: CBS MoneyWatch, “How does divorce affect college financial aid?” Lynn O’Shaughnessy, Sep. 27, 2013