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Filling out financial aid documents as a divorced parent

Many changes take place during a divorce. However, divorcing couples with children may benefit from being aware of other types of financial difficulties that can arise years after a divorce. For instance, when a high school student with divorced parents applies for financial aid, the roles of each parent in the student's life may impact the student's financial aid package.

Parents with primary custody of a child may be expected to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Divorced parents with a child applying for college will want to look into how their custody arrangement influences the information they will submit on FAFSA. According to The Wall Street Journal, whichever parent the child spent more time with in the past year will likely fill out the form. FAFSA only requires one parent's information.

However, schools may request additional financial information from a student's biological parents or stepparents. Checking with the policy for each school before filling out any financial aid paperwork may save time later on.

Since a student's financial aid package may differ depending on which parent fills out the FAFSA form, parents may want to consider how each of their financial situations would impact the student's financial aid package even more than a year in advance.

As with other financial decisions, taking the time early on to understand all of one's options will likely be very helpful when applying for financial aid as well. Custody and child support issues may be resolved shortly after a divorce, but financial aid applications can bring up custody and financial support questions years after a divorce.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Financial aid and divorce," Rachel Louise Ensign, Dec. 28, 2012

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