Divorce and College Financial Aid

Naturally, at least half of the families I work with are divorced and I find that this is where people tend to make the most mistakes. These are very costly and easily avoidable mistakes that can be extremely difficult to correct. There are two forms that need to be filled out when applying for financial aid.  Some schools have their own institutional form but for the sake of this article, we’ll discuss the two big forms; the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE.

The FAFSA only requires the custodial parent’s (usually the mother) and student’s personal information.   Everything on the FAFSA, including income, assets and any businesses, need only be completed with the custodial parent’s information.  In other words, if the non-custodial parent owns a business and has properties, this does not go on the FAFSA. The parents are treated as two separate entities for the sake of this form.

The CSS PROFILE is considerably more detailed and requires more personal information than the FAFSA but still only requires information from the custodial parent and student.  It is important to note that this form will require information about ownership of the house.  After CSS PROFILE has been completed and submitted online, the non-custodial parent must create his/her own login and complete Non-custodial PROFILE form.  While this may seem a bit complicated, The College Board has created this process assuring the privacy of both parties in mind.

I would like to mention a couple of important tips to make note of.  1… if either parent has remarried, that spouse’s financial information must be included on their respective forms. This may change the timing of marriage plans for some but could be worth it when you calculate the possible loss of financial aid over a period of four years. 2… while many schools require the CSS PROFILE, there are a number of schools that do not require the Non-custodial PROFILE. Choose schools strategically if financial aid is a must.