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FAFSA: Separated or Divorced Parents

September 17, 2018

The FAFSA application - Free Application for Federal Student Aid - is used to determine the expected family contribution based on family financial information. An expected family contribution is calculated for every student, even if the family is not going to contribute that amount. A FAFSA is used to determine the specific Federal Student Aid programs that can contribute to a student's total financial aid package and in what proportions.

Many universities also use the information provided on the FAFSA to determine other grants and scholarships as well. 

Since the FAFSA requires financial information - that of the parents and your daughter if applicable - what is the deal if the parents are separated or divorced? Who's financial info goes on the FAFSA? 

Firstly, it doesn't matter who claims the child on their tax returns.  

The answer is, whoever is the custodial parent - in other words, who does your daughter reside with greater than 50% of the time.  

Be clear, simply living apart does not constitute a legal separation. For the purposes of the FAFSA, parents who have an informal separation cannot live together and should maintain separate residences. (Different floors of the same house do not count as separate residences; living in temporary housing, such as a hotel room, does not count either.) You may be required to furnish legal documentation if you live in a state that requires it. 

If the parents are separated, but live together, they must select “Married or Remarried” when filing the FAFSA.

If the parents have 50/50 custody, the FAFSA should be completed by the parent who provides more financial support. Again, this is not necessarily the parent who claims the student on their tax return.

If a parent is living with but not married to another person, that person’s information should not be reflected on the FAFSA.
 

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