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Blended Families and Navigating Through FAFSA

 Posted on March 03, 2016 in Divorce

blended families, navigating FAFSA-IllinoisIt is that time of year when parents of high school seniors and college students begin the process of navigating through the educational financial aid process. This process can be difficult enough to figure out; however, when the process involves children whose parents are divorced, it can feel as if you are traveling through a maze. Moreover, it can become more complicated when one or both parents have remarried and there blended families are involved.

When applying for financial aid in the form of grants or loans, every student must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This can be done online or via regular mail using a paper copy. Most college advisors recommend doing it online if possible because there are online instructions which help guide you the process and the school you are applying to will receive the application quicker. Additionally, there are steps that divorced parents can take to help ensure their child receives the best available financial aid package available for their situation.

One of the most important questions on the FAFSA form asks who is the "custodial" parent of the child—which parent the child lived with the majority of the time within the past 12 months.

Even more confusing are the titles FAFSA gives to parents. For example, Parent 1 is the parent who the child lived with the most. Most people would automatically assume that Parent 2 on the FAFSA form would be the other parent. However, it is not. If Parent 1 has remarried, then Parent 2 is actually the new spouse—the child's stepparent.

Another issue that often hampers the amount of financial aid a student receives is that the parent provides more financial information than is necessary on the form. It is not required that the mother, stepfather, father, and stepmother's income all be listed on the FAFSA application. This over-sharing of income will likely end up in a reduced financial assistance for the student. Hence, you are only required to provide the custodial parent's income and his or her spouse's income if they have remarried. You are not required to provide any of the noncustodial parent's income.

If a custodial parent is cohabitating with someone, even if he or she is not married, that person's income does need to be added as household income.

One of the key points that many divorcing couples often overlook while going through custody negotiations is how college expenses will be handled. This is why it is important to have the representation of an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney to make certain that you and your children are legally protected. Call Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC at 630-665-2500 today.


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